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Full text of "Tristram sahib"

I 




o 



TRISTRAM SAHIB 



MILLS & BOON'S 

SHILLING CLOTH LIBRARY 

War Price Is. 3d. net each Volume (postage 3d.) 

JACK CONDON THE VALLEY OF THE MOON. (530 pages, post- 
age 5<f.) 

THE LITTLE LADY OF THE BIG HOUSE. 
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JOHN BARLEYCORN. THE SCARLET PLAGUE. 
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8, G. DE HORNE VAIZEY-GRiZEL MARRIED. 

THE ADVENTURES OF BILLIE BELSHAW. 

AN UNKNOWN LOVER. ' SIU.T OF LITE. 

HARRIET MANNERING'S PAYING Gv: 
MARIE VAN VORST-THE GIRL FROM His TOWN. 

His LOVE STORY. BIG TREMAINE. MARY MORELAND. 
LA. R. WYLIK THE TEMPLE OF DAWN. Hu 

TRISTRAM SAHIB. THE RED MIRAGE. DI\H. 



TRISTRAM SAHIB 



BY 

I. A. R. WYLIE 

AUTHOR OF 

'THE THMPLE OF DAWX," "THE RAJAH'S PEOPLB* 



This kiss to the whole world" 

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony 



MILLS & BOON, LIMITED 

49 RUPERT STREET 

LONDON W.I 



Firtt Published 1915 



CtpyrigKt 191C in {he United States of America by I. A. R. \Vvui 



Stack 
Annex 

^5" 



TRISTRAM SAHIB 



BOOK I 
CHAPTER I 

THE STORY OF KURNAVATI 

"^TVHUS it came about that, for her child's sake, the 

_|_ Rani Kurnavati saved herself from the burning 

pyre and called together the flower of the Rajputs 

to defend Chitore and their king from the sword of Bahadur 

Shah." 

The speaker's voice had not lifted from its . brooding 
quiet. 'But now the quiet had become a living thing 
^repressed, a passion disciplined, an echo dimmed with its 
passage from the by-gone years, but vibrant and splendid 
still with the clash of chivalrous steel. 

The village story-teller gazed into the firelight and was 
silent. Swift, soft-footed shadows veiled the lower half 
of his face, but his eyes smouldered and burnt up as they 
followed their visions among the flames. He was young. 
His lithe, scantily-clad body was bent forward and his 
slender arms were clasped loosely about his knees. Com- 
pared with him, the broken circle of listeners seemed half 
living. They sat quite still, their skins shining darkly 
like polished bronze, their eyes blinking at the firelight. 
Only the headman of the village moved, stroking his fierce 
grey beard with a shrivelled hand. 

" Those were the great days ! " he muttered. '' The 
great days ! " 

The silence lingered. The Englishman, whose long, 
white-clad body linked the circle, shifted his position. He 
lay stretched out with a lazy, unconscious grace, his head 



2 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

supported on his arm, his eyes lifted to the overhanging 
branches of the peepul tree, whose long, pointed leaves 
fretted the outskirts of the light and sheltered the solemn, 
battered effigy of the village god like the dome of a temple. 
A suddenly awakened night-breeze stirred them to a 
mysterious murmur. They rustled tremulously and secretly 
together, and the clear cold fire of a star burnt amidst 
their shifting shadows. Beyond and beneath their whisper- 
ing there were other sounds. A night-owl hooted, a herd 
of excited, lithe-limbed monkeys scrambled noisily in the 
darkness overhead, chattered a moment, and were mis- 
chievously still. From the distance came the long, hungry 
wail of a pariah dog, hunting amidst the village garbage. 
These discords dropped into the night's silence, breaking 
its placid surface into widening circles and died away. 
The peepul leaves shivered and sank for an instant into 
grave meditation on their late communings, and through 
the deepened quiet there poured the distant, monotonous 
song of running water. It was a song based on one deep 
organ note, the primaeval note of creation, and never 
changed. It rose up out of the earth and filled the dark- 
ness and mingled with the silence, so that they became one. 
The listeners heard it and did not know they heard it. It 
was the background on which the night sounds of living 
things painted themselves in vivid colours. 

The Englishman turned his face to the firelight. 

" Go on, Ayeshi," he said, with drowsy content. " You 
can't leave the beautiful Rani in mid-air like that, you 
know. Go on." 

"Yes, Sahib." The young man pushed back the short 
black curls from his neck and resumed his old attitude of 
watchfulness on the flames. But his voice sounded louder, 
clearer. 

" Thereafter, Sahib, the need of Chitore grew desperate. 
In vain, the bravest of her nobles sallied forth the armies 
of Bahadur Shah swept over them as the tempest sweeps 
over the ripe corn, and hour by hour the ring about the 
city tightened till the very gates shivered beneath the 
enemy's blows. It was then the Rani bethought her of a 
custom of her people. With her own hands she made a 
bracelet of silver thread bound with tinsel and gay with 
seven coloured tassels, and, chposing a trusty servant, sent 
him forth out of Chitore to seek Humayun, the Great 
Moghul, whose conquering sword even then swept Bengal 



THE STORY OF KURNAVATI 3 

like a flail. By a miracle, the messenger escaped and came 
before Humayun and laid the bracelet in his hands, saying : 

" ' This is the gift of Kurnavati, Rani of Chitore/ 

" And Humayun looked at the messenger and asked : 

" ' And if Humayun accept the gift of the Rani Kurna- 
vati, what then ? ' 

" ' Then shall Humayun be her bracelet-bound brother, 
and she shall be his dear and virtuous sister/ 

" And Humayun looked at the gift and asked: 

" ' And if I become bracelet-bound brother to the Rani 
Kurnavati, what then ? ' 

" ' Then will the Rani of Chitore call upon her dear and 
reverend brother, according to the bond, to succour her 
from the cruel vengeance of Bahadur Shah/ 

" And because the v heart of Humayun loved all chivalrous 
and noble deeds better than conquest and rich spoils, he 
took the bracelet and bound it about his wrist, saying : 
' Behold, according to the custom, Humayun accepts the 
bond, and from henceforth the Rani Kurnavati is his dear 
and virtuous sister, and his sword shall not re^t in its 
scabbard till she is free from the threat of her oppressors/ 
And he set forth with all his horsemen and rode night and 
day tiU the walls of Chitore were in sight." 

" Well- ? " The story- teller had ceased speaking and 

the Englishman rolled over, cupping his square chin in his 
big hands. " Go on, Ayeshi." 

" He came too late." The metal had gone from the 
boy's voice, and the firelight awoke no answering gleam in 
his watching eyes. 

" The Rani Kurnavati and three thousand of her women 
had sought honour on the funeral pyre. The grey smoke 
from their ashes greeted Humayun as he passed through 
the battered gates. The walls of Chitore lay in ruins and 
without them slept their defenders, clad in saffron bridal 
robes, their faces lifted to the sun, their broken swords red 
with the death of their enemies. And Humayun, seeing 
them, wept." 

Ayeshi's voice trailed off into silence. The headman 
nodded to himself, showing his white teeth. 

" Those were the great days," he muttered, " when men 
died fighting and the women followed their husbands to 

the " He coughed and glanced at the Englishman. 

" But ours are the days of the Sahib," he added, with great 
piety, " full of wisdom and peace." 
1* 



4 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

"Just so." The Sahib rose to his feet, ^stretching him- 
self. " And, talking ot wives, Buddhoos, if thou dost not 
give that luckless female of thine the medicine I ordered, 
instead of offering it up to the village devil, I will mix 
thee such a compound as will make thy particular hereafter 
seem Paradise by comparison. Moreover, I will complain 
to the Burra Sahib and thou wilt be most certainly degraded 
and become the mock of Lalloo, thy dear and loving brother- 
in-law. Moreover, if I again find thirty of thy needy 
brethren herded together in thy cow-stall, I will assuredly 
dose thy whole family. Hast thou understood ? " 

The headman salaamed solemnly. 

"The Dakktar Sahib's wishes are* law," he declared 
fervently. 

".I should like to think so. And now, Ayeshi, it is 
time. We have ten miles to go before morning. Give me 
my medicine-chest. I see that Buddhoos has a longing 
eye on it. Come, Wickie ! " c 

The last order was in Errglish, and a small, curious shape 
uncurled itself from the shadows at the base of the tree and 
t rotted into the firelight. The most that could be said of 
it with any truth was, that it had been intended for a dog. 
Many generations back there had been an Aberdeen in the 
family, and since then the peculiarities of that particular 
strain had been modified to an amazing degree by a series 
of mesalliances. In fact, all that remained of the Aberdeen 
were a pair of bandy legs and a wistful, pseudo-innocent 
eye. Nevertheless, it was evidently an object of veneration . 
The village elders made way for it, regarding it with gloomy 
apprehension as it leisurely stretched itself, yawned, and 
then, with the dignity which goes with conscious yet modest 
superiority, proceeded to follow the massive white figure 
of its master into the darkness. 

The headman salaamed again deeply and possibly thank- 
fully. 

" A safe journey and return, Sahib ! "he called. 

The Sahib's answer came back cheerily through the still- 
ness. He looked back for an instant at the patch of fire- 
light and the sharply cut silhouettes of moving figures, and 
then strode on, keeping well to the middle of the dusty 
roadway, his footsteps ringing out above the soft -accompa 1 1 i - 
ment of Ayeshi's patter and the fussy tap-tap of WickiVs 
unwieldy paws. He whistled cheerfully. So long as the 
k'cping, odoriferous mud-huts of the village bound them 



THE STORY OF KURNAVATI 5 

in on either hand, he clung tenaciously to his disjointed 
scrap of melody, but, as they came out at last into the open 
country, he broke off, sighing, and stood still, his arms 
outstretched, breathing in the freedom and untainted air 
with a thirsty, passionate gratitude. 

There was no moon. The luminous haze which poured 
out over the limitless space before them was a mysterious 
thing, born of itself without source, without body. Its 
pallid, greenish clarity stretched in a ghostly sea between 
the earth and the black, beacon- studded sky, distorting and 
magnifying, as still water distorts and magnifies the rocks 
and tangled seaweed at its bed. It lapped soundlessly 
against the cliff of rising jungle land to the right, and be- 
neath its quiet surface the shadow of the village temple 
floated like a sunken island, its slender Sikhara alone rising 
up into the darkness, a finger of warning and admonition. 
It was very still. The voice of the invisible, swift-flowing 
river had indeed grown louder, but it was a sound outside 
this world of shadows and phantoms. It beat against ,the 
protecting wall of dreams, unheeded yet ominous aijd 
threatening in its implacable reality. 

The two men crossed the path which encircled the village 
and made their way over the uneven ground towards the 
temple. As they drew nearer, the light seemed to recede, 
leaving the great roofless manderpam a shapeless ruin, 
whilst the Sikhara faded into the black background of 
the jungle. The Dakktar Sahib whistled softly ; a horse 
whinnied in answer, and the amazing Wickie bounded for- 
ward as though recognising' an old acquaintance. The 
Sahib laughed under his breath. 

" We know each other, Wickie, Arabella and I," he said. 
" A wonderful animal that, Ayeshi." 

" Truly, a noble creature, Sahib," Ayeshi answered very 
gravely. 

A minute later they reached the carved gateway of the 
temple where two horses had been casually tethered. They 
stood deep in shadow, but the strange, unreal light which 
covered the plain filled the manderpam with its broken 
avenue of pillars, and threw into sharp relief the carved 
gateway and the figure seated cross-legged and motionless 
beneath the arch. Both men seemed to have expected the 
apparition. Ayeshi knelt down before it and placed a bowl 
of milk, which he had been carefully carrying, within reach 
of the long, lifeless-looking arms. 



6 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" For the God thou servest, Holy One," he said, and 
for a moment knelt there with his forehead pressed to the 
ground. 

The old mendicant seemed neither to have heard nor seen. 
He was almost naked. The bones started out of the 
shrivelled flesh, and the long, matted grey hair hung about 
his shoulders and mingled with the dishevelled beard, so 
that he seemed scarcely human, scarcely living. Only for 
an instant his eyes, half hidden beneath the wild disorder, 
flashed over the kneeling figure, and then closed, shutting 
the last vestige of life behind blank lids. 

The Dakktar Sahib bent down and placed a coin in the 
upturned palms. 

" That also is for thy God, Vahana," he said, with grave 
respect. Receiving no answer, he turned away and 
untethered his horse, a quadruped which even the solemn 
shadow could not dignify. It must have stood over 
seventeen hands high and its shape was comically suggestive 
of a child's drawing six none too steady lines representing 
legs, back, and neck. The Dakktar Sahib whispered to it 
tenderly and reassuringly : " Only ten miles, Arabella, 
on my word of honour, only ten miles. And you shall have 
all to-morrow. I know it's rotten bad luck, but then I 
have got to stick it, too it's our confounded, glorious duty 
to stick it, Arabella, and you wouldn't leave me in the 
lurch, would you, old girl ? " Then came the crunch of 
sugar and the sound of Arabella's affectionate nozzling in 
the region of coat pockets. The Dakktar swung himself 
on to her lengthy back. " Now, then, Ayeshi ; now then, 
Wickie ! " 

The three strange companions trotted out of the shadow, 
threading their way through the long, coarse grass in the 
direction of the river ; but once the Englishman turned in 
his saddle and looked back. By some atmospheric freak, 
the temple seemed to have drawn all the green phosphores- 
cent haze into its ruined self and hung like a great, dimly 
lit lamp against the wall of jungle. The Dakktar Sahib 
lingered a moment. 

"They must have dreamed wonderfully in those old 
days," he said, wistfully. " To have built that think of 
it, Ayeshi ! To have given one's soul an abiding expression, 
to wake the souls of other men thousands of years hence 
to bring a lump into the throat of some human being long 
after one's bones have crumbled to dust. Well well > , 



THE STORY OF KURNAVATI 7 

He broke off with a sigh. " And you believe that to-night 
the Snake God will drink your milk, Ayeshi ? " 

" He or his many brethren, Sahib. He lies coiled about 
the branches of the highest tree in the jungle and on 
every branch of the forest another such as he keeps guard 
over his rest." 

" No man has ever seen him, Ayeshi ? " 

" No man dares set foot within the jungle, Sahib, save 
Vahana, and he is a Sadhu, a holy man. He has sat be- 
fore the temple for a hundred years, and none have seen 
him eat or heard him speak." 

" You believe that, Ayeshi ? " 

The boy hesitated a moment, then answered gravely : 

" Yes, Sahib. My people have believed it." 

" Your people ? Well that's a good reason one of 
our pet reasons for our pet beliefs, if you did but know it, 
Ayeshi. There's not such a gulf between East and West, 
after all." He rode on in silence, and then turned his head 
a little as though trying to distinguish his companion's 
features through the darkness. " Who are your people, 
Ayeshi your father, your mother your brothers ? You 
have never spoken of them. Are they dead ? " 

" I do not know, Sahib. I have never known father or 
mother or brethren." 

The Dakktar Sahib nodded to himself. 

" You are not like the other villagers," he said. " One 
feels it one doesn't talk in the same way to you. Tell 
me, Ayeshi, have you no ambitions ? " 

" None but to serve you, Sahib." 

The Englishman threw back his head and laughed. 

" Well, that's a poor sort of ambition. Why, I might 
get knocked on the head any time typhoid, cholera, 
enteric I'm cheek by jowl with the lot of them half the 
days of my life. And then where would you be, Ayeshi ? " 

" I should follow you, Sahib." 

" That sounds almost biblical. And what for, eh ? " 

" Because of this, Sahib Suddenly and passion- 

ately, he discarded the English language which he used 
with ease and plunged into his own vernacular. " Behold, 
Sahib, there is the snake-bite on my arm, the wound which 
the Sahib cleansed with his own lips. Is that a thing to 
be forgotten ? A life belongs to him who saves it." 

" Pooh, nonsense ! " The Englishman leant over his 
saddle. " For the Lord's sake, Wickie, keep away from 



8 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Arabella's hoofs ! Are you a dog or an idiot ? Ayeshi, 
you don't understand. That sort of thing's my job there, 
now, you've nearly run us into the river with your silly 
chatter ' 

They drew rein abruptly. It was now close on the dan n, 
and the darkness had become intensified. The stars seemed 
colder and dimmer. Where they stood, their horses snuffing 
nervously at the unknown, they could hear the steady 
hurrying of the water at their feet, but they could see 
nothing. The Englishman patted the neck of his steed 
with a comforting hand. " In a year or two, there will be 
a bridge across," he said. " Then Mother Ganges won't 
have such terrors for us." 

" Mother Ganges demands toll of those who curb" her," 
Ayeshi answered solemnly. 

" You mean, that no bridge could be built here ? " 

" I mean, Sahib, that the price will be a heavy one." 

The Dakktar Sahib made no answer. Suddenly he 
laughed, not as though amused but with a vague embarrass- 
ment. 

" That was a fine story you told us to-night, Ayeshi. I 
don't know what there was about it something that made 
one tingle from head to foot. I've been thinking of it on 
and off all the time. Those were days when men did mad, 
splendid things bad too worse than anything we do, 
but also finer. Sometimes one wishes but it's no good 
wishing. The Rani Kurnavati and her bracelet are gone 
for ever." 

" Humayun also is dead," Ayeshi said, in his grave way. 

" You mean ? Yes, that's true, too, I suppose. 

But oh Lord " he lifted himself in his saddle with a 
movement of joyous, fiery vitality " though I'm no 
Great Moghul, worse luck, still, if a woman sent me her 
bracelet and she were being murdered on the top of Mount 
Ararat, I'd " 

"The Sahib would come in time," Ayeshi interposed, 
gently and significantly. 
The Englishman dropped back in his saddle. 

" Well, anyhow, Arabella, Wickie, and I would have a 
good shcft at it," he said, gaily. He turned his hm>< - 
head eastwards and touched her gently to a trot. " But 
it's no good bragging. No one's going to make either of us 
bracelet brother. That's not for the like of us. And 
meanwhile, we've got eight miles to go and the dawn will 



THE STORY OF KURNAVATI 9 

be on us in an hour. I wish we'd got the seven-league 
boots handy. But you don't know the story of the seven- 
league boots, do you, Ayeshi ? I'll tell it you as we go 
along. A story for a story, eh ? " 

" Yes, Sahib." 

They trotted off along the bank of the river, Arabella 
slightly in advance,. Wickie skirmishing skilfully on either 
hand, the Dakktar Sahib's voice mingling with the song 
of the waters as he told the story of the seven-league boots. 

Behind them the temple had sunk into profound shadow. 

Vahana, the mendicant, still sat beneath the archway. 
He took the bowl of milk and drained it thirstily. The 
coin he spat on with a venomous hatred and sent spinning 
into the darkness. 



CHAPTER II 

TRISTRAM THE HERMIT 

Bourse, all that one can do is to hope," Mrs. 
Compton said, ruffling up her dark, curly hair 
with a distracted hand. "I don't know who it 
was talked about hope springing eternal in the something- 
something, but he must have lived in Gaya. If we hadn't 
hope and pegs in this withered desert >- " 

".My dear," her husband interposed, " in the first place, 
Gaya isn't a desert. It's the Garden of India. In the 
second place, no lady talks about pegs certainly not in 
the tone of devout thankfulness which you have used. 
Pegs is are masculine. They uphold us in our strenuous 
hours, of which you women appear to know nothing ; they 
soothe our overwrought nerves and prepare the way for 
a tipensh old age in Cheltenham. Praise be to Allah ! " 

Mrs. Compton sighed and surveyed the curtain which she 
had been artistically draping. Her manner, like her whole 
wiry, restless personality, expressed a good-tempered 
ibility. 

" Anyhow, they keep you human and grant us luckless 
females a lucid interval in which we can call our souls our 
own. What you men would be like if you didn't have your 
drinks and your tubs and all your other multitudinous 
creature comforts well, it doesn't stand thinking about. 
Archie, do you like the curtain tied up with a bow or 
oh, of course, it's no use asking you, you materialistic 
lump." She turned from^ie long, lean figure sprawling 
on the wicker chair by the^R'andah window and appealed 
to the second member of her audience. 

Mr. Meredith, you're a clergyman, you ought to have 
a soul. Do you like bows or don't you ? " 

Meredith looked up with a faint smile on his grave face. 

10 



TRISTRAM THE HERMIT 11 

" I like bows, Mrs. Compton. I hope it's a good sign 
of my artistic and spiritual development ? " 

" Yes, it is. I. like bows n^self. Ob, dear " She 
stopped suddenly. " But supposing she's a horror ! 
Supposing she paints and smothers herself in diamonds, 
and gets hilarious at dinner, and has a shrill voice ! Good- 
ness knows, I don't boast about our morals; but we're im- 
moral in our own conventional way, so that it becomes 
almost respectable, and anything else would shock us 
frightfully. You know, I think we're running an awful risk." 

Captain Compton guffawed cheerfully, and the smile 
still lingered in Owen Meredith's pleasant eyes. 

" I shouldn't worry, my dear lady," he recommended. 
" After all, some of them are the last thing in respectability. 
It belongs to their profession. They're bound to be physic- 
ally perfect, and physical perfection goes with morality. 
Besides, I understand that there can be genius mthat sort 
of thing, and that she's a genius." 

" Well, genius doesn't go with respectability, anyhow," 
Mary Compton retorted. "A professional dancer and a 
guest of the Rajah's ! What can one hope for ? " 

Meredith compressed his lips and passed his hand over 
his black hair with a movement that somehow or other 
revealed the Anglican. A look of what might have been 
habitual anxiety settled on his square, blunt features, and 
he found no answer. 

Captain Compton got up, stretching himself. 
. "The Rajah's the best guarantee we could have," he 
said lazily. "He's a harmless type of the little degenerate 
princeling who apes the European and lives in a holy terror 
of doing the wrong thing. He wouldn't set Gaya by the 
ears for untold gold. I know just what's happened. He 
saw Mile. Fersen dance and he sent her a bouquet 
very respectfully and gave a supper-party in her honour 
also very respectable and assured her of a warm, respect- 
able welcome in Gaya should she ever visit India. Well, 
she's come as why shouldn't she ? and he's trying to do 
the handsome and the respectable at the same time. You 
don't suppose old Armstrong would have written about her 
if everything wasn't quite all right." He pulled out 
his cigarette case and looked round -helplessly for the 
matches. " My dear, you will find that she is not only a 
perfect lady, but that our ways will shock her into fits ? 
and that we shall have to live up to her." 



12 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Mrs. Compton gave him the matches with the air of a 
nurse tending a peculiarly incapable child. 

*' You disappoint me horribly," she said, and went out 
on the verandah. A minute later she called the two men 
after her and pointed an indignant finger in the direction 
of the highway. " Look at that, Archie ! How do you 
suppose anybody's going to respect us with that sort of 
thing running about ! It's positively unpatriotic. It's a 
blow at the very foundations of the Empire ! " 

" Why, it's the old Hermit," Compton interrupted, 
soothingly. "Don't worry about him. If there were a 
few . more hermits Bless the man ! what's he doing ? 
Ahoy, Tristram, ahoy there ! " 

In answer to the shouted welcome, the little procession 
which had aroused Mrs. Compton's ire turned in at the 
compound gates. The Dakktar Sahib came first. He 
wore a duck suit with leggings, and carried his pith helmet 
in both hands as though it were a bowl full of priceless 
liquid. In its place, a loud bandanna handkerchief offered 
a slight protection to his head and neck. Behind him, at 
her untrammelled leisure, came Arabella, her reins trailing, 
her nose, almost on the ground, her legs obviously waver- 
ing under the burden of her protruding ribs. Behind her 
again, in a cloud of sulky dust, waddled Wickie, forlorn 
and spiritless. The three halted at the steps of the veran- 
dah, and the Dakktar Sahib sat down on the first step 
without ceremony. 

' ' I'm done," he said. 

Mrs. Compton almost snorted at him. 

" I should think so ! What on earth were you walking 
for, you impossible person ? What is thf use of having a 
horse if you call that object a horse if you don't ride ? " 

" Arabella's dead beat," he explained simply. He put 
his pith helmet between .his knees and stared down into its 
depths as though something hidden there interested him. 
" I know she's no beauty," he went on earnestly. " But 
she's an awful brick. Never done me or any one a l>ad 
turn in her life. Can't say that of myself. And just he- 
cause I paid fourteen quid for her, I don't see why 1 should 
put upon her. I suppose we three couldn't have a drink, 
could we ? " 

Compton shook his head. He came and sat down <-n 
the stop beside the big. travel-stained figure and looked 
cooler and more immaculate by contrast. 



TRISTRAM THE HERMIT 13 

" Afraid not. If ^>u weren't so delightfully absent- 
minded, Hermit, you would know perfectly well that we're 
not at home. Don't you recognise the old dak-bungalow 
when you see it ? " 

Tristram turned and looked about him rather blankly. 
At that moment Mrs. Compton, who was feeling unjustiii- 
ably irritable, thought he was quite the ugliest man she 
had ever set eyes on. 

"No to tell you the truth, I was too dead to notice. 
I just tottered in. What's happened ? The old place 
looks as though it had had its face washed. Who are you 
expecting ? " 

" Ever heard of Sigrid Fersen ? " 

Tristram returned rather suddenly to the contemplation 
of the mysterious contents of his helmet. 

" Yes on my last leave home. I saw her dance the 
night before I sailed." 

" Well, she's coming here world tour or something. 
The Rajah invited her to Gaya, and Armstrong gave us a 
hint to do the hospitable. Mary is all on the qui vive, hoping 
she'll do the high kick at a Vice-Regal function or some- 
thing." 

Tristram made no answer, and his silence was at once 
irritating and final. He seemed scarcely to have heard. 
Mrs. Compton, watching his profile with dark, exasperated 
eyes, suddenly softened. 

" You do look fagged ! " she exclaimed impulsively. 
" Has it been a bad time, Hermit ? "^ 

He looked up at her. 

"Pretty bad. I haven't seen a white face for two 
months or slept in the same quarters for two nights running. 
There's any amount of trouble brewing out there in the 
villages. It's the drought and the poor beggars can't get 
the hang of our notions. Anything might develop. I'm 
going back to Heerut to-night. I only came along to get 
fresh medical supplies. I left Ayeshi at the last village. 
He's a gem." 

Meredith, who had been standing by the verandah railings, 
drew himself up, his swarthy face was brightened by his 
eyes, which were alight with a grave, sincere fervour. 

"Yes, Ayeshi's unusual," he said. "He's different 
from the rest. I've often noticed him. I wish we could 
get hold of him, Tristram." 

" Get hold of him ? " 



14 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Give him a chance. You know what I mean. It's 
that type of man we want. He ought to be encouraged to 
go ahead." 

" Ayeshi's all right," Tristram remarked slowly. " He's 
happy. And he's a sort of poet, you know. I'd leave him 
alone, if I were you." 

Meredith laughed good-temperedly. 

"It's not my business to leave people alone," he said. 

There was a silence which unaccountably threatened to 
become strained. Mrs. Compton, wearied by her struggles 
with refractory curtains, drew a chair up to the steps of 
the verandah and sat down, ruffling her husband's sleek 
hair with an absent-minded affection. He bore the afflic- 
tion patiently, his lazy blue eyes intent on the approach 
of a neat, slow-going dog-cart which had turned the bend 
of the high-road, 

"It's the Boucicaults' turn-out," he said. " And little 
Anne driving herself, too, by Jove! I wonder what she 
wants round here ? " 

" Whatever it is, she must want it pretty badly," his 
wife remarked. " She hates driving if the truth were 
told, I believe that pony terrifies her out of her life. Poor 
little soul ! " 

" No nerve," Compton agreed. " Broken long ago." 

Meanwhile, with a lightness and agility that was un- 
expected in a man of his short, heavy build, Owen Meredith 
had swung himself over the verandah rails and walked down 
to meet the new-coder. The trio on the steps watched 
him in silence. Then Compton chuckled rather mirthlessly. 
" She'd make a first-rate parson's wife," he said. " If 
only " then he broke off tend became suddenly business- 
like and astonishingly keen. ' ' Tristram stop fidgeting with 
that damned helmet of yours. I know you're dog-tired, 
old chap, but I want you to go round to the Boucicaults 
before you return to the wilds." 

Tristram looked up. " The tiredness had gone out of his 
face. < 

" Anything wrong I mean, worse than usual ? " 

Compton threw his half-finished cigarette at Wickie. 

" You don't know what it's been like these last two 
months. The man's mad, Tristram, or he's possessed of 
the devil. The whole regiment is suffering from c.b. and 
extra drill and stopped leave for nothing nothing. I 
oughtn't to talk about it, I suppose, but something's got 



TRISTRAM THE HERMIT 15 

to be done. The men are getting nervy and out of hand, 
and no wonder. There are moments when I feel ready to 
lash out myself." 

" Can't something be done ? Can't you gef rid of him ? " 

Compton laughed shortly. 

'^You know what happens to men who complain of their 
superior officers. Besides, he's so devilishly efficient, and 
everything he does -is done in cold blood. It's drink, of 
course, but it doesn't make him lose his head. It makes him 
deadly, hideously quiet. And itfs not only the regiment, 
Tristram there's his wife. We hardly ever see her and 
when we do well, they say " 

Mrs. Compton clenched her small brown fist and thumped 
her husband's shoulder in a burst of indignation. 

" They say he beats her," she. said between clenched 
teeth. 

Tristram got up as though he had been stung. 

" That's that's damnable," he stuttered. 

" That's just the word," Mrs. Compton acknowledged 
gratefully. She looked up at him and admitted to herself 
that, after all, he pleased her profoundly. At that moment 
he was not ugly in her eyes. In one way, she recognised 
him to be magnificent. She knew no other man with such 
shoulders or who carried his height and strength with so 
natural a grace. But now even his face pleased her, red- 
bearded and unlovely though it was. In her quick, Celtic 
way, she imagined a sculptor who, in an inspired mood, had 
modelled a masterpiece, incomplete, rough-hewn, yet 
vigorous with life and significance. She liked his blue 
eyes, which usually looked out on the world with a whimsical 
simplicity and now flared up, dangerously bright. " Posi- 
tively," said Mrs. Compton, " there are moments when I 
love you, Hermit." 

Archibald Compton grimaced and pulled himself to his 
feet. 

" Anyhow, after that brazen-faced declaration you 
might help us," he said. " You're a doctor. It's your 
business to interfere. Couldn't you drop a hint at head- 
quarters suggest long leave or something ? Do there's 
a good fellow " 

Tristram had no opportunity to reply, for Anne Bouci- 
cault and her companion were now within earshot. Mere- 
dith walked at the wheel of her cart and was talking gaily, 
his face lifted to hers, and, freed for the moment, from its 



16 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

habitual expression of fervid purpose, was almost boyis 1 . 
She smiled down at him, and then, glancing up at the group 
at the verandah, the smile faded and she jerked the reins 
of her pony so that the animal came to an abrupt stand- 
still. 

" Major Tristram ! " she exclaimed. " Why, I didn't 

know you were back I thought She broke off, 

flushing to the brows. Her incoherency and that quick 
change .of colour added to her rather touching sweet 
She was not pretty. Neither the dainty white frock nor 
the shady hat could help her to more than youth. But her 
j-outh was vivid and gracious. There was something, too, 
in her expression, in the look of the brown eyes, that had 
all the appeal, the wistfulness of an anxious, frightened 
child. There was nothing mature about her save her 
mouth, which was firm, even obstinate. 

Major Tristram came to her and gave her his big 
hand. 

" I'm only back for a few hours," he explained, " and 
then my victims have me again. But it's good to catch a 
glimpse of anything so fresh as yourself. Isn't the sun 
ever going to wither you like other mortals ? " 

The smile dawned shyly about the corners of her lip.-. 

" I don't know. I keep out of it as much as possible. 
I don't like it. I only came out this afternoon because 
She hesitated, and then added rather breathlessly : "I 
knew Mrs. Compton was here and I'm anxious about 
mother." t 

Mary Compton laid an impulsive brown hand on the 
white one which held 'the reins in its frail, ineffectual 
fingers. 

' Well, here we all are, anyhow," she said, "and just 
dying to be useful." What's the trouble, ' dear ? " 

" Mother is ill," Anne Boucicault answered, with the 
same curious hesitancy. " I was frightened. Major Tris- 
tram, if only you could come ' 

He did not wait for her to finish her appeal. He scram- 
bled up on to the seat beside her, and took the reins 
from her hands. 

" You look after Arabella and Wickie, Compton," he 
said, " and hand me up my helmet. No not like that 
for goodness sake, be careful, man ! Thanks, that's 
better." 

" And I hope you're going to wear it," Mrs. Compton 



TRISTRAM THE HERMIT 17 

remarked, with asperity. " I suppose you don't want to 
arrive with a sunstroke or give Mrs. Boucicault a fit with 
that awful handkerchief ? " 

Tristram shook his head. 

" Sorry, can't be done. It's occupied already. A 
patient of mine." He put his battered headgear between 
his knees and poked gingerly about the depths, producing, 
finally, amidst a confusion of straw and grass, a tiny bulbul. 
The little creature fluttered desperatety, and then, as though 
there were something miraculous in the man's hand, lay 
stilt, a soft, bright-eyed ball of colour, and stared around it 
with an audacious contentment. 

" Its wing's hurt," Tristram explained. " Wickie bit 
it. In point of fact, Wickie and I aren't on speaking terms 
as a result. It's a subject we shall never agree upon." 
He soothed the little creature's ruffled plumage with a 
tender fore-finger, and held it out for Anne Boucicault's 
inspection. She peered at it curiously and rather coldly. 

" It's very sweet," she said, " but wouldn't it be kinder 
to put it out of its misery ? " 

" Rather not. -Besides " his eyes twinkled in Mere- 
dith's direction "it's not my business to put people out 
of their misery. And I'd rather keep this little chap alive 
than some men I know of. He's one of creation's top- 
notes. He's a poem all to himself. He wants to live and 
he's a right to live, and he's going to. His wing'll mend. 
I've mended dozens. It's an instinct mending. I've got 
a baby cheetah with a broken paw at my diggins " 

Compton laughed hilariously at his wife's grim dis- 
approval. , 

" I don't believe you could drown a kitten," she said. 

" Why on earth should I want to drown a kitten ? " He 
put his protege tenderly back in its impromptu nast. " I 
brought two tabbies from England, and there are a lot more 
now. The whole village looks after them. They believe 
they're a specially imported sort of devil, and take every 
opportunity to propitiate them with edible offerings. It's 
great ! " 

Mrs. Compton looked helpless. 

" You beware of that man, Anne," she said. " He's 
probably got a dyspeptic rattle-snake in one of his pockets. 
As to you, Tristram Tristram, I warn you that sooner or 
later you will-get into serious trouble. You're a sentimen- 
talist. There go along. And, meanwhile, I'll let Ara- 



18 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

bella eat the grass tidy, and that so-called dog shall have a 
bone. Good luck to you ! " 

. "I'm awfully obliged," he said solemnly. "Not a 
chicken bone, please. They stick in his throat." 

" If I followed my conscience, I should give him poison," 
Mrs. Compton retorted, with her brows knitted over laugh- 
ing eyes. 

She had, however, no opportunity to carry out her 
threat. As the dog-cart tunied out of the compound gates 
the disgruntled Wickie, who had been lying afar off, panting 
and disgraced, picked himself up, and, uttering a hoarse-wail 
of indignation and despair, took to his bandy legs and rolled 
after the disappearing vehicle in a miniature storm of dust. 



CHAPTER III 

TRISTRAM BECOMES FATHER-CONFESSOB 

SO long as the gleaming, unsheltered roadway lasted, 
Tristram remained silent. His eyes were swollen 
with fatigue, and the sun blinded him. Through a 
silver shimmer of heat, he could see the undulating plain, 
yellow with the harvest, and his knowledge saw beyond that 
to the river and the rising jungle land, and the scattered 
hapless villages where his enemy awaited him. Cool and 
beautiful, Gaj 7 a lay above them, circling the hillside, the 
white walls of the bungalows sparkling amidst the dark 
green of the trees like the gems of a diadem. Tristram 
and his companion watched it thirstily. As they trotted 
at last into an avenue of flowering Mohwa trees, he drew 
rein and glanced down at the girl beside him. She was 
sitting very straight as though in defiance of the heat, her 
hands folded in front of her, her lips sternly" composed. The 
youthful tears were not far off, yet, through a transient 
break in the future, he saw her as she would be years hence . 
And somehow the vision amused and touched him. It was 
as though the phenomenon reversed itself, and a stern-fea- 
tured, middle-aged woman had grown young before his 
eyes. 

" You mustn't worry," he said gently. " I don't suppose 
it's anything serious. Tell me about it. I don't want to 
worry her with questions." 

" It won't worry her." He saw how her hands trembled 
as she clasped them and unclasped them. " She wants to 
talk it's terrible that's why I was so anxious I had to 
find some one who would listen and and soothe her. I 
really came for Mr. Meredith. She doesn't like him, I'm 
afraid, poor mother, but that's because she doesn't under- 
stand. He's so awfully good." 

19 



20 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" He's a fine fellow," Tristram agreed. 

" And I thought he might help her," she went on, ear- 
nestly, " might give her strength. Trouble over- 
whelms her. She resents it. And she has nothing to fall 
back on nothing to console her." 

Tristram did not answer immediately. They were going 
uphill, and he gave the pony his head, letting him manage 
the ascent after his own fashion. 

" It takes a lot to console a man when his machinery's 
out of order," he said at last. " And one somehow does 
resent it. And then, I must say, if I had the toothache, I 
shouldn't want Mr. Meredith." 

She gave a little nervous, unamused laugh. 

" You know quite well what I mean, Major Tristram." 

" Yes, I do. And I'm wondering if, after all, Meredith 
isn't the man you want. He and I both concentrate on 
humanity, but we do it from different points of VIGAV. 
I'm the man who looks after the house and sees that it's 
hygienic and watertight and all that. Meredith puts in the 
furniture and the electric fittings and keeps them polished.'' 
He glanced whimsically at her puzzled face. " I mean 
just that the soul isn't my business," he added. 

She raised eager, trusting eyes to his. 

" I think it is, Major Tristram, I'm sure it is." 

" Well, to tell you the truth, I hink so, too. I believe 
that the soul is the ( body and the body is the soul, and that 
one can't be healthy or unhealthy without affecting the 
other. But that's heresy, isn't it ? " 

A waxen, beautiful blossom from an overhanging mango- 
tree fell into her. lap. Mechanically she picked it up and 
tore it with her restless fingers. 

" It's not what we are taught to believe," she answered. 

"No. You see, I'm a Pagan, Miss Boucicault. It's 
hereditary. My old mother she's nearly eighty she still 
totters up on to the mountain tops to say her prayers. As 
for me " he gave a contented chuckle "you hear 
that little chap chirping inside my helmet ? Well, he's ///// 
consolation for every ache and sorrow I ever had he and 
his like, and the trees and the stars and the flowers even 
that mango blossom you're tearing up. To me they're 
just so many parts of God." 

" Oh " She looked at the tattered flower in her lap 

and brushed it aside as though it suddenly frightened her. 
"I don't think that can be right. I'm sure you're not a 



TRISTRAM BECOMES FATHER-CONFESSOR 21 

Pagan , anyhow, Maj or. You couldn't be and do the things 
you do." 

They came out of the belt of shadow into the broad sun- 
light, and the blinding change covered his silence. A 
company of native infantry came up from a cross-road and 
swung past them amidst a cloud .of slow-rising dust. The 
officers saluted Tristram. For an instant they seemed to 
throw off their weary dejection and to become almost gay. 
But the men did not hit their eyes. Their beards were 
white with dust and their faces set and sullen. They passed 
on, the beat of their feet sounding muffled and heavy on 
the palpitating quiet. 

''They look pretty bad," Tristram commented. 

" I'm frightened of them," she returned quickly. " Some 
of them mutinied - last week, and father was nearly shot. 
I wake up every night and fancy I hear them firing 
on us." 

' ' They belong to a regiment that stuck to us through 
thick and thin in 1857," he answered. " It's not like them 
to turn against us." 

Her lips tightened. 

"You can't trust any of them," she said. 

By this time they had reached the first large bungalow 
of the European quarter. It was at once a sombre, pre- 
tentious building, evidently newly done up, and as they 
passed, a man on horseback turned out of the compound. 
Seeing Anne Boucicault, he saluted at once with a faintly 
exaggerated courtesy. The exaggeration matched the 
ultra-smartness of his English riding-clothes and the un- 
English flashiness of his good looks. Anne Boucicault 
returned the salutation stiffly, not meeting his direct glance, 
which passed on with an unveiled curiosity to Tristram. 
The latter urged the pony to a smarter trot as though some- 
thing had irritated him. 

" That's a stranger, anyhow," he said. '*Two months 
brings changes even to Gaya. I thought that place was 
deserted and haunted for all time." 

" Mr. Barclay has it now," she answered. " He came 
six weeks ago. I believe he trades with the native weavers 
or something.' He's very rich." 

" He doesn't look like an Englishman." 

" He's not not really. An Eurasian. His mother was 
a native, and his father She broke off. "He makes 
it a sort of half mystery. He just hints at things I don't 



22 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

believe he knows himself. Anyhow, we hate him and try 
to avoid him. It's awfully awkward." 

"I seemed to know his face," Tristram said, half to 
himself. He heard her sigh, and the sigh roused him from 
his tired search after an elusive memory. " He doesn't 
bother you, does he ? " he asked. 

She shook her head, but he saw her lips tremble with a 
new agitation. 

" Not exactly only it's all going to be so different. 
We were like a big family, weren't we, Major Tristram all 
friends, all of the same set, and now this man has come, 
and then you've heard, haven't you about this woman, 
this dancer " 

" Mile. Fersen, you mean ? " 

" That's what she calls herself." There was a chilly 
displeasure in her tone, which made her seem suddenly 
much older. " What does she want here ? Why does 
she come ? She can't have anything in common with us. 
She may even be a foreigner vulgar and horrid " 

" I don't think she's* like that," he interposed. 

She flashed round on him. 

" You know her, then ? " 

" I've seen her just once," he answered, slowly. 

" Is she " She seemed to struggle with the question. 

" Is she very beautiful, Major Tristram ? " 

" No I think not not at all." 

" That's worse then." And then quickly, passionately : 
" Oh, I wish she wasn't coming ! I don't know why the 
very thought of her frightens me. It's as though I knew 
she was going to bring trouble a sort of presentiment 

" You're tired and anxious," he interrupted, and smiled 
down at her. " Nothing will happen or perhaps I'm 
sanguine because I shan't be there to witness the up- 
heaval." 

" You're going into camp again ? " 

." To-night." 

" For long ? " 

" Until I've got things straight." 

He happened to see her hands, and how they were tightly 
nterlocked as though she were holding herself back. But 
her voice was quiet enough. 

" Will you go on like that always, Major Tristram ? " 

" I'ntil they push me on to the rubbish heap," he an- 
1 lightly. 



TRISTRAM BECOMES FATHER-CONFESSOR 23 

" It must be very, very lonely." 

He plunged his hand into his side-pocket and drew out 
a big bundle of letters. His blue eyes twinkled. 

" You'd "better not waste sympathy on me, Miss Bouci- 
cault. Look at these. I picked them up at the station 
two by every mail. What do you think of that ? And 
all from one woman ! " 

" A woman ? " she echoed, stupidly. 

' ' My old mother." He laughed with a boyish satis- 
faction. " We're the greatest pals on earth, she and I. 
A man couldn't be lonely with her in the background. 
We've got each other to live for." 

" But she's in England. How she must miss you ! " 

He put the letters slowly back in his % pocket. 

" Yes. It's like a chronic pain. It hurts, but it weaves 
itself into the pattern of one's life. My mother's like that. 
My father was out here too, and they were often separated. 
She accepts it as inevitable." 

" But you your loneliness must be worse, out there in 
the wilderness." 

" It's not a wilderness, it's peopled with all kinds of 

things all kinds of" He caught himself up. "And 

I have friends in all the villages, and my animals and my 
work." 

" I know your work is wonderful the noblest work in 
the world." She spoke with a grave, youthful wisdom. 
" But the loneliness must remain all the^ same, Major 
Tristram." . 

He was silent for a moment, and then shook himself as 
though freeing himself from a burden. 

" It can't be helped," he said. " No one can share it 
with me." 

" Many people would be proud and glad to share it," 
she answered. She held her head high, and there was a 
fervent simplicity in her low voice which raised the im- 
pulsive words above suspicion. He turned to her with 
warm eyes. 

"Thank you," he said. "I don't think it's true, 
and I shan't ever put it to the test but it's good 
hearing." 

He turned the pony neatly into the gates of the Bouci- 
caults' bungalow and drove up the shady avenue to the 
porch. A syce ran out to meet them and caught the reins, 
and a minute later Anne Boucicault had been lifted gently 



24 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

to the ground. " And we've chattered so much," Tristram 
remarked shamefacedly, " that I don't even know your 
mother's symptoms." . 

She made no answer, indeed did not seem to have heard 
him. She had lost all her vigour, all her faintly self- 
opinionated eagerness. As they stood together in the 
entrance hall she seemed just cowed and broken, a white, 
frightened little ghost. 

" My mother's in here," she said, scarcely above a 
whisper. She held the door open for him, and he went 
past her into a room so carefully darkened that for a 
moment he hesitated blindly on the threshold. Then a 
sound guided him. It was the sound of some one crying. 
Not passionately, not desperately, but with a terrible 
monotony. Then one salient feature detached itself from 
the shadows a wicker chair drawn up by the curtained 
window, and beside it, huddled together, with her face 
buried in her arms, the figure of a woman. She wore some 
loose, dark-coloured garment, and was so small and still 
that she would have seemed scarcely living, but for the 
jerking sobs. Tristram checked the girl's anxious move- 
ment and went forward alone. He knelt down by the 
piteous heap and put his hand on her arm, and remained 
thus for a full minute. He did not speak to her, and she 
seemed unconscious of his presence. The sobbing went 
on unbrokenly. Then he picked her up quietly and effort- 
lessly, and placed her in the chair, dexterously slipping a 
silk cushion behind her head. 

"Mrs. Boucicault ! " She did not answer. Her eyes 
were closed. Her small, white face under the mop of fair 
hair, fast turning grey, was puckered like a child's. Her 
little hands gripped the arms of her chair. From her place 
near the door, Anne watched with a frightened wonder. 
" Mrs. Boucicault ! " Tristram repeated quietly. Her eyes 
opened then. They were tearless and very bright. She 
stared straight ahead, her under-lip between her white 
teeth, and began to rock herself backwards and forwards. 
She was still sobbing. Tristram knelt again and took one 
of her hands and held it between his own. She looked 
down then first at her hand, as though it puzzled her, and 
then at him. Suddenly, violently, she freed herself and 
tore open the heavily embroidered kimono. Her shoulders 
were bare. On the right shoulder was a black swollen 
bigger than a man's hand. 



TRISTRAM BECOMES FATHER-CONFESSOR 25 

" Look ! " she said. 

Anne Boucicault caught her breath with a vague, vicarious 
shame. She saw that Tristram had moved very slightly. 
His square jaws looked ugly against the dim light of the 
window. 

" Get hot water and bandages," he commanded. " Linen 
will do and ointment anything greasy." As she slipped 
from the room he drew the kimono gently over the poor 
lacerated shoulder. " You've had a nasty accident, Mrs. 
Boucicault," he said, levelly. 

" It was no accident." Her sobs had stopped. Her 
voice sounded like the rasp of steel against steel. " He 
did it my husband. It's not the first time, Major Tristram . 
It won't be the last. He'll kill me and he'll kill her." 
She nodded towards the door. The words poured from her 
as though released from a long restraint, but she was coldty, 
violently coherent. " Yes he'll kill her slowly, by 
inches. He'll break her. She'll go under fast. She's not 
like me I'm wiry she's hard, but she'll snap. For all 
her prayers and her church and her God, she'll go under." 
Something contemptuous and angry crept into her face. 
" Anne's cowed already. And it's not only us. His men 
they tried to shoot him. Did you hear ? " 

He nodded. 

" Yes." 

Her eyes blazed. 

'" Oh, I wish to God they'd done it ! " she burst out, from 
between clenched teeth. " Oh, why didn't they ? He's 
goaded them enough. One of these days they'll murder 
us all for his sake. He's a devil. He's made life a hell. 
He likes to make suffering. He likes to see us^ wince. Oh, 
if he were only dead ! " Suddenly the tense mask of 
hatred broke up into piteous lines of helpless misery. Two 
great tears rolled unheeded down her white cheeks. " Anne 
talked about bearing our cross, and prayer, and God's will," 
she went on chokingly. " But I want to be happy, Major 
Tristram, I want to be happy." 

" You have an absolute right to happiness," he answered. 
" You've got to be happy, Mrs. Boucicault. I'm going to 
see to it." 

She dropped back wearily among her cushions. Her 
grey eyes, now pale and faded-looking, rested on his face 
with a childish questioning. 

" You talk as though as though you could." 



26 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Well, I can do something I promise you. Close your 
eyes." 

She closed them at once, and he took his handkerchief 
and brushed the tears from her cheeks. Then he resumed 
his kneeling position, her hand in his, soothing it much as 
he had soothed the frightened, broken-winged bird. Once 
she sighed deeply, as if released from some fetifling weight, 
and thereafter her breathing sounded quiet and regular. 
By the tune Anne Boucicault" returned, her mother had 
dropped into a heavy sleep. 

Major Tristram got up noiselessly, and motioned the 
girl to follow him. His movements were curiously light 
and noiseless, and brought no shadow of change on the 
sleeper's face. 

"It's better that she should sleep," he said quietly. 
" I shall come in again to-night before I leave. I doubt if 
she wakes before then." 

They went out together. On the mat the ubiquitous 
Wickie lay extended in a state of dusty misery. He rolled 
over as Tristram appeared, displaying much humility and 
a blood-stained paw. Tristram picked him up and hugged 
him. "You're not a dog you're an ass, Wickie," he 
declared. " And I'll wager you consider yourself a martyr 
into the bargain, you assassin of innocent bulbuls. What 
do you suppose I'm going to do with you carry you, I 
suppose ? " He turned a wry, laughing face to his com- 
panion. 

" Well, Fll be off now, anyhow," he said. " You'll see 
me to-night. Good-bye till then and don't worry her or 
yourself." 

She took his extended hand. 

" Thank you. I thought it would be so terrible for 
any one to know how things are with us. I haven't minded 
you a bit." 

" I'm awfully glad." 

He took up his impromptu bird's-nest from its place of 
safety in an empty fern-pot. The contents chirped defiance 
and terror, and Tristram looked up smiling. He, saw then 
that Anne Boucicault's eyes were fixed on something 
beyond him, and that they were wide and stupid-looking 
with dread. He turned. A man stood in the sunlit 
verandah. Against the golden background ,he bulked 
huge and threatening, his features and whatever expres- 
sion they bore blotted out by shadow. The switch 



TRISTRAM BECOMES FATHER-COXFESSOR 27 

which he carried beat an irritable tattoo against his 
riding-boots. 

Tristram nodded a greeting. 

" Good evening, Colonel." 

" Good evening. Major." He bowed satirically and 
crossed the threshold. " This is a pleasant surprise. I 
understood you were out camping." 

" I have been for the last two months. I am off again 
to-night." 

" Then my daughter and I are indeed fortunate to catch 
this glimpse of you." He came further into the shade, 
half turning to fling his helmet and whip on to a table. 
The light fell on his profile, revealing the livid skin, the 
brutal line of the jaw. " To what are we indebted, Major ? " 

"I came professionally," Tristram answered. 

" On Anne's behalf, I suppose ? " 

" No, for Mrs. Boucicault." He scrutinised the elder 
man deliberately. " Perhaps I could do something for you, 
Colonel. You're not looking well. You ought to take a 
year's leave." 

Colonel Boucicault allowed a moment to elapse before he 
answered. He had the tensely vicious look of a hard 
drinker who is never drunk, and whose jangling nerves are 
always writhing under restraint. Finally, he seemed to 
take a stronger hold over himself. He laughed out, shortly. 

" Thanks, I'm very well. I'll last the regiment another 
year or two to its infinite satisfaction, no doubt. As to 
Mrs. Boucicault, your visit was kind but unnecessary. 
There's nothing wrong in that quarter but feminine 
hysteria." 

" I don't think so," Tristram returned. He had coloured 
slowly to the roots of his ruddy hair, but his voice was even 
quieter. " I take a serious view of the case. I have 
ordered Mrs. Boucicault an immediate return to England." 

There was another break. The two men eyed each other 
squarely. 

" That is an absurd proposition which I cannot sanction," 
Boucicault said in the same tone of violent self-restraint. 

" I'm afraid you'll have to, Colonel." 

The antagonism, whose note had sounded even in their 
greeting of each other, now rang out clearly. Boucicault's 
big hands twitched at his sides. 

"Surely, Major, that is scarcely fitting language " 

he began. 



28 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" I don't care a damn for what's fitting," Tristram broke 
in. " Mrs. Boucicault's going to England with Anne. 
If she doesn't, I'll have you hounded out of the army even 
if I get hounded out myself in the doing of it. That's my 
bargain." 

" By God, Major " Boucicault took a step nearer. 

By reason of his heavy build, he seemed to tower over the 
younger man. * His eyes were bloodshot in their inflamed 
rims ; his whole body quivered. " You'd better get out of 
here," he stammered thickly. " And take my advice 
keep clear of this place keep out of my way." 

" Thanks." Tristram tucked Wickie more securely 
under one arm. " I'll be round this evening," he added. 

He ignored the threatening gesture, and went leisurely 
down the steps and along the drive. At the gates he 
stopped, drawing his breath with a quick, deep relief. 

Across the roadway, the stems of the trees stood out 
black and straight as the pillars of a great temple, whose 
red-gold lamp had been lowered from the dome and now 
sank swiftly into an extinguishing pool of shadow. A 
breeze rustled coolly overhead, brushing away the sweet, 
heavy incense of many flowers and bringing the first warning 
of nightfall. A belated finch fluttered amidst the dense 
foliage, and then all was still again. 

Tristram remained motionless, apparently plunged in 
his own thoughts, for he started when a hand touched his 
arm and turned almost angrily. Anne Boucicault stood 
beside him. She was breathless, her lips were parted, and 
the wind had blown the dark, curly hair from her white 
forehead, adding impulse and eagerness to her staid girlish- 
ness. 

"I had to come," she panted, " to to thank you. And 
then you mustn't keep your promise. You mustn't 
come it isn't safe " 

He shook his head. His eyes, after the first glance, had 
gone back to the fading light. 

" I shouldn't hurt your father," he said, gravely. 

" But you ! " she exclaimed. " No one knows 

what he might do to you." 

"I don't think that matters," he returned, still in the 
same rather absent tone. " Anyway, if he's mad, he's 
not a fool. You mustn't worry." 

She lingered. Her hand rested tremblingly on his arm. 

" And I want to thank you, Major Tristram. You've 



TRISTRAM BECOMES FATHER-CONFESSOR 29 

helped poor mother and I was so proud. No one's ever 

faced him like that. I wish " She faltered. "If we 

could only do something for you " 

He was silent for a moment, then, as though her words 
only reached him gradually, he turned with a quick smile. 

" You can. Take Wickie in as a boarder, will you ? 
He's lame, and my hands are full already. I couldn't take 
him with me. Ayeshi could fetch him in a week or two. 
Would you mind ? " 

"I'd love to have him." She took the unwieldy, pro- 
testing mongrel, and held him rather clumsily in her arms. 
"And your little bird ? " she asked. 

"No, he'll want special medical treatment. Thanks 
awfully, all the same." He bent and patted Wickie's 
black snout with an apologetic gentleness. " Don't fret 
your heart out, old chap. It's your own fault and Ayeshi 
shall come for you, upon my honour he shall." 

"I'll take care of him," Anne said. 

"I know you will." 

" Good-bye, Major Tristram." The sunlight was in her 
eyes, and they were very bright. The colour in her cheeks 
deepened. " And God bless you," she added, timidly but 
very seriously. 

He smiled down at her. 

" And you and Wickie and everybody," he said. " I'm 
sure He does." 

He strode off, and at the bend of the road turned and 
waved. 

But long after he had disappeared, she stood there gazing 
into the dusk, the unhappy Wickie pressed tightly against 
her breast. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE INTERLOPERS 

RAJAH RASALDt) was wonderfully, if not impres- 
sively European. He wore a frock-coat and grey 
trousers, English in intention, French in execution. 
They were almost too perfect. The native, brightly huecl 
turban, an unwilling concession, as he admitted, to local 
prejudice, came as a rather startling finale, though it suited 
him better than his Europeanism. He was a short, un- 
muscular little man, built in circles rather than in straight 
lines, and a determined course of Parisian good-living had 
added seriously to a natural tendency to embonpoint. His 
manner, even in sitting still, was restless and fussy. He had, 
in fact, neither the inscrutable dignity of the native nor the 
self-assured ease of the race he aped. 

" When I look at you, mademoiselle," he was saying, 
earnestly, " I forget that 1 am in this dreadful country, and 
I imagine myself back to London. I see myself in the 
darkened box, and you in all the brightness. I hear the 
music and the roar of applause, I feel at home almost 
happy." He stared down at his round, soft hands as though 
he were rather pleased with their severe lack of adornment, 
and sighed. The woman he addressed did not look at 
him. She was watching the little groups of white-clad 
figures dotted about the garden, with her head turned 
slightly away from him. Next her, Mary Compbon and the 
Judge's wife were talking with the lazy earnestness engen- 
dered by tea and the cool shade of a flowering mango. 

" But this is your country," Sigrid Fersen said. " You 
are surely happiest here." 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

" I was born here. The Government has put me in a 
position of trust, and it is my duty to be at my post from 
time to time. But my heart is with you with the West 

30 



THE INTERLOPERS 31 

and Western civilisation. And. of all that, Mademoiselle, 
you are the personification." 

She laughed a little, as though secretly amused. 

" Tell me your impressions of Paris, Rajah," she said. 

He told her. From time to time his brown, dissipated 
eyes shot irritable glances at the figure seated immediately 
behind his hostess. It was perhaps a somewhat startling 
figure, and though Gaya approved of companions and 
chaperons, and had indeed heaved a sigh of relief over 
Mrs. Smithers' existence, it had hone the less been consider- 
ably startled by her personality. She was well past middle 
age, and, in spite of the considerable heat, was dressed 
severely in black grenadine, and wore a mob cap on a 
remarkably fine head of white hair, which she occasionally 
patted with a nervous hand. If it is true all human beings 
bear a resemblance to some animal, then Mrs. Smithers 
might easily have been associated with a bull-dog of exceed- 
ingly determined character. Her face was settled in 
wrinkles of challenging tenacity, but she never moved and 
never changed her expression. She sat there, bolt upright, 
and only her roving eyes betrayed the fact that she was 
alive. They expressed also the bitterest and most anni- 
hilating disapproval of everything existent. 

Mrs. Compton accepted her third cup of tea from an 
engagingly youthful subaltern and went on talking. 

" Of course he's mad," she was saying. " He hates 
Tristram worse than any one living, which is saying a lot. 
They had an awful row over Mrs. Boucicault just before 
Tristram went away, and now Boucicault is taking his 
turn. He refuses to forward Tristram's appeal for help 
says the whole thing's a scare, and that Tristram is simply 
fussing for his own glorification. But it isn't true. Ayeshi 
came to my husband last night and told him. It's cholera 
oh, my dear Susan, don't jump like that ! Heerut's 
fifteen miles away, and we've the river between us, and 
Gaya's healthy when everything else is riddled. Besides, 
Tristram has got the thing in hand. He hasn't slept for 
four days. Ayeshi said he didn't look human. Some of the 
natives went crazy with fright and got out of hand. But 
Tristram managed them single-handed, my dear, and 
with not so much as a revolver. Ayeshi talked about him 
as though he were the tenth Avatar, or whatever they call 
it. Of course, he'll do that sort of thing once too often. 
C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre. But I love 



32 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

t hat man. I tell Archie once a day at least, and he's getting 
quite tired about it " 

" Of whom are you talking, Mrs. Compton ? " 

Mrs. Compton started, and the Rajah, who had been 
expatiating on French genius as revealed in the Bal du 
Moulin Rouge, went on for a minute, carried forward by his 
own momentum. Then he stopped and dropped into a 
silence, which would have been sulky in any one less anxious 
to appear civilised. As for Mrs. Compton, the question 
had come with such self-assured, if quiet authority, that she 
felt certain that, as a woman on her own ground, she ought 
to take offence. In fact, all Gaya, as represented in the old 
dak-bungalow's garden, was in much the same position. 
Without performing the high kick at the club dinner or 
otherwise living up to the conventional reputation of her 
class, the new-comer had sailed serenely across all their 
unwritten laws, and not only had Gaya not been outraged, 
but it had been secretly delighted. And it was ashamed of 
itself for being delighted. Mrs. Compton was ashamed of 
herself ashamed that she, the untamable spirit of the 
station who had insulted Colonel Boucicault to his face, 
should sit there and meet this woman with a smile of 
propitiating amiability. 

" Major Tristram," she said. " He belongs to the Medical 
Service. You haven't met him yet, and I don't suppose 
any of us will see him for some time. He's fighting the 
cholera in one of the native villages." 

Sigrid Fersen nodded thoughtfully. Then she got up. 

" I heard you say just now that you were interested in 
old china," she said, abruptly. " I have a piece in the 
drawing-room which I should like you to see. Will you 
come ? " 

"I should b delighted " 

" Your guests, mademoiselle," Rasaldu murmured. 
But his protest passed unheeded, and Mrs. Compton got 
up and left the Judge's wife without a word of apolog} 7 . 
Mrs. Smithers had risen with equal promptitude and 
brought up the rear. 

They crossed the garden to the bungalow, and the little 
parties grouped lazily in the vicinity of the tea-tables 
became silent, and remained silent until Sigrid Fersen had 
disappeared. Then they went on talking. Very few of 
them realised that they had ever stopped, much less that 
they had been staring with the naive directness of children. 



THE INTERLOPERS 33 

They certainly made no comment. Only Jim Radciiffe, 
the newly joined subaltern, who had the inexhaustible 
restlessness of a fox-terrier puppy, became quiet to the 
point of thoughtfulness. 

" By Jove, did you see her walk ? " he said to Mrs. 
Brabazone. But the latter made no reply, being in a 
state of dudgeon and not inclined to appreciation. 

Meantime, Mary Compton had become aware of a pro- 
found and very mysterious change in her own psychology. 
As she crossed the threshold of the darkened drawing-room 
she perceived that every earnest, painstaking effort of hers 
to make the place habitable and presentable had suffered 
a ruthless upheaval. The hours of patient questioning 
which she had spent on the to-be or not-to-be of the curtain 
bows had been so many hours wasted. Yet her fiery 
Celtic susceptibilities remained unruffled. She admitted 
at once that the changes were improvements, small but 
effective strokes of genius. Moreover, various new items 
had been introduced a piano procured from heaven alone 
knew where, a few rich embroideries, a vase or two, and a 
pale-tinted Persian rug. She was busy cataloguing these 
items, when her quick eyes encountered Mrs. Smithers. 
Mrs. Smithers had seated herself promptly on the chair 
nearest the door, and assumed her former attitude of un- 
bending severity and disapproval. Her appearance some- 
how made a further reduction in Mrs. Compton's forces of 
self-assurance, and when her hostess, who had been busy 
with the contents of a carved chest, came back to her, 
she was overpowered by an unusual sense of almost 
fatuous helplessness. Whatever this small woman meant 
to do, she would do. And therewith the fate of Gaya 
seemed sealed. 

" There you recognise it, of course." 

Mrs. Compton forgot Gaya and her own lost prestige. 
In the ten years of her married life, there was one passion 
for which she and the easy-going, hard-working Archie 
had scraped and saved It was a passion which was one 
day to find a fitting background in some English home, a 
place created almost daily afresh in their minds but always 
with the abiding features of spacious lawns and an orchard 
and stables, and within doors oak cupboards guarding the 
treasures of the hard years. But with all their savings 
and searchings, they had never possessed anything like 
this. 



34 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

*' It's Sevres of course how beautiful ! I'm almost 
afraid to touch it." 

" Don't be. It's yours." 

" Mine ! " Mary Compton gasped whether audibly or 
not, she did not know. She felt that there was fresh cause 
for offence coming and that she had no adequate forces with 
which to meet it. " But, of course not " 

" I bought it for you." 

Mrs. Compton nearly regained her usual briskness. 

" That's nonsense. We haven't known each other a 
week. And you must have bought that in Europe." 

" Yes I did, years ago. But I bought it for you, all 
the same. I bought it for some one who would look at it 
and touch it as you did. And besides, I want you to have 
something of mine I am selfish enough to wish to be 
remembered by those who have been kind to me as you 
have been. It was the Rajah's invitation which brought 
me to Gaya, but only a woman could have welcomed 
me. Any one^in my position makes enemies automati- 
cally, and without you I should have had to face a 
whole army of prejudices. But you paved the way 
you made it possible to invite all these people without 
offending them and this in spite of the fact that you 
thought you were probably introducing a firebrand." 
She laughed in her curious, reflective way. " And then 
it was your hands prepared this beautiful home for me," 
she added. 

Mrs. Compton crimsoned and swallowed the delicate 
morsel of brazen flattery with a ridiculous pleasure. She 
made a last effort, however, to retire to her first position 
of friendly reserve. 

" Of course, we did what we could," she said. " Gaya 
is rather proud of its hospitality. We wanted you to take 
back a good impression, mademoiselle 

A quick gesture interrupted her. 

" I'm not ' mademoiselle.' I'm English. My mother 
was a Swede, and I took her maiden name because there 
never has been a great English dancer, and in England 
what hasn't been can't be. It's just one of the Rajah's 
foibles to give everything a Gallic touch. But I'm just 
iMi>s Fersen or Sigrid if you like." 

The Celtic temperament works both ways. The only 
certain feature is its uncertainty. Mrs. Compton aban- 
doned her offensive-defensive and with great dexterity 



THE INTERLOPERS 35 

managed to cling to the Sevres vase and kiss the giver on 
both cheeks without disaster. 

" I'd like it to be Sigrid," she said warmly. " And my 
name's Mary and I'm going to take the Sevres because 
I want it badly, and because I like you and I shan't mind 
feeling horribly grateful. And I hope you'll make me your 
master of ceremonies, and our bungalow your headquarters. 
You will, won't you ? " 

She thrilled under the touch of the cool, small hand on 
hers. 

" Yes, I promise you. It's what I wanted. I shall 
need a friend. A great many people will hate me^ men 
and women. I have seen it in the eyes of one -woman 
already. And, besides that I want to get to know real 
human beings. All my life I have lived for and in .the one 
thing. People have been shadows to me. Now I need 
them. But they must be' real good, honest flesh and 
blood. Not puppets." She sat down on the big divan 
drawn up against the wall and patted the seat beside 
her. " Tell me about this Major Tristram," she said. 

And Mrs. Comptoii. whose rules of etiquette were Gaya's 
social law, sat down and for half an hour talked about 
Major Tristram, whilst Sigrid Fersen's guests wandered 
unshepherded about her garden. 

At the end of the half-hour Mrs. Compton found her 
husband near the gates, disconsolate and alone, guarding 
the rather shabby little turn-out which they called a dog- 
cart. He was in uniform, and had evident^ been at some 
pains to escape notice. 

" You said six o'clock and it's half -past," he commented, 
gloomily. " I shall be confoundedly late. What on earth 
have you been doing ? And what's that you've got under 
your arm ? " 

She chuckled to herself. 

" Can't you recognise Sevres when you see it ? " 

" By George what a piece ! " His eyes opened with 
a hungry appreciation. Then he shook his head at her. 
" My dear girl, put it back ! I knew we should come to 
this sooner or later all collectors do. Put it back before 
it's missed. Think o'f the scandal. And a newcomer, 
too ! " 

She broke into a half-pleased, half-ashamed laugh and 
wrapped the precious trophy in the protecting folds of a 
rug. 

2* 



36 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

'' She gave it me yes, she did. And she calls me Mary, 
and I call her Sigrid. and we've kissed each other, and I've 
given her the run of our bungalow." She climbed up into 
the driver's seat and took the reins. " You know how I 
h'tte those sort of sudden familiarities, Archie. But I've 
no explanation. Have you ? " 

" Not one." 

" She isn't beautiful. I'm better-looking myself." 

"A dozen times, old girl." 

She smiled down upon him with a rather absent-minded 
graciousncss. 

" I believe she's got electric wires instead of nerves and 
sinews," she said reflectively. " I felt them in her hand. 
It was like putting one's fingers into a steel glove covered 
with velvet. What bosh I'm talking. I believe I'm 
hypnotised. I shall go round and look up poor Anne and 
restore my self-respect. Mr. Meredith told me she looked 
a* though she was breaking her heart over something. 
Of course, it's that brute ! Why aren't -you men plucky 
enough to shoot him ? " 

" My dear girl " 

His wife cut short his protest by turning her pony out 
of the gates and up the broad avenue which led from the 
outlying dak-bungalow to Gaya proper. The steep hill, her 
new possession, and various rather confused speculations 
accounted for the fact that her pony promptly dropped to 
a walk and was allowed to proceed in a leisurely fashion, 
which culminated in au abrupt halt. Mrs. Compton 
awoke then. She felt vaguely annoyed with herself, and 
her annoyance changed to something like consternation 
when she perceived that the stoppage was not attributable 
either to the pony's disinclination or her own day-dreaming. 
A man stood at the animal's head and now came up to the 
step, his long, brown hand lifted to his topee in greeting. 

"I called to you, Mrs. Compton," he said, "but you 
didn't hear me, and I took the liberty of stopping you. 
I hope I'm forgiven." 

She stared down at him. Her confusion of warm dis- 
jointed musings chilled instantly to her usual trenchant 
matter-of-factness. 

"If you wanted to speak to me, Mr. Barclay " she 
began. 

" 1 know I might have called formally. But 1 ran the 
risk cither of being refused or landing into a crowd of people. 



THE INTERLOPERS 37 

I wanted to see you alone." He waited a moment. His 
hand rested firmly on the side of the cart, and she could 
not have driven on without going over him. She saw also 
the dogged set of his dark face and waited with an angry 
resignation. " You've just come from Mademoiselle 
Fersen's At Home, haven't you ? " he asked. 

" Yes." 

" I used to know her," he said, " that is to say, I was 
introduced at some big reception in England. She wouldn't 
remember me. That was in my undergrad days. I was 
at Balliol, you know." 

Mrs. Compton's fine lips twitched satirically. She was 
not feeling charitable, and this man was offering her his 
credentials in a way that incited derision. He must have 
seen her expression, for his brown eyes, with their blue- 
tinted whites, never left her face. " I want you to do me 
a favour," he burst out. " I want you to introduce me 
again, Mrs. Compton." 

Her smile faded. She was thoroughly angry, but some 
other less definable emotion confused her indignation to 
the point of ineffectuality. 

" I'm sorry, Mr. Barclay, but I really haven't the right 
or the power to introduce any one to Miss Fersen without 
her permission." 

" I know that at least, your friends and acquaintances 

would be introduced naturally " He broke off. The 

nostrils of his fine, aquiline nose distended, his whole face, 
handsome in line and profoundly brooding in its funda- 
mental expression, was tense and strained-looking. He 
seemed like a man doggedly setting himself to a hated task 
" May I be straightforward with you, Mrs. Compton ? " 

" Of course. Why not ? " 

" I know you are anxious to drive on over me even," 
he said, with a flash from a smothered bitterness. " But 
you are the only person I feel I can speak to, and I mayn't 
get you alone again. Look here, Mrs. Compton, I'm an 
Englishman. My father was English I was educated at 
an English University I hold an English degree. I've got 
any amount of money. It seems to me I've got the right 
to demand well, decent civility. So far I've been here 
two months I've been out of things. Of course, I don't 
belong to the military lot, and I haven't a Government 
appointment but it seems to me out here in an alien 
country we English ought to hold together " He 



38 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

was choking and breaking over his words like a man breath- 
less with running, the fatal mincing accent betraying itself 
in his gathering excitement, and instinctively Mrs. Comp- 
ton looked away from him. He was trembling, and some- 
how the sight filled her with an odd pity almost stronger 
than her repugnance. 

" What do you want me to do, Mr. Barclay ? " she asked. 

" After all it's not much. If your husband would put 
me up for the Polo Club I'm a good player, and I've got 
some of the finest ponies in India. Gaya could beat any 
team you like with my ponies. Your husband's popular 
he could easily do it- if he wanted to " 

" I couldnt ask him," she interrupted hurriedly. " It's 
not my business. I hate backstair influence with husbands. 
She took refuge in a cowardly compromise. " You ought 
to speak to Captain Compton yourself." 

He laughed shortly. 

" That means you won't," he broke out suddenly and 
violently. " It's the touch of the tar brush that's worrying 
you, isn't it ? Yet you don't mind kowtowing to a full- 
blooded native. You'll have that dissipated degenerate 
Rasaldu at all your feasts, though he's not even accepted 
by his own people. His grandfather was a village cow-herd, 
and the Government set his people up in the place of the 
hereditary heirs because they were likely to be more 
tractable You know all that, and yet you'd lick his 

boots, whilst I, with your own blood in my veins " He 

caught himself up, smoothing his working features with a 
desperate effort. " Look here, Mrs. Compton, I want to 
do the right thing. I want to serve my country loyally. 
But I've got to have a country I've got to belong some- 
where. Otherwise " 

She tightened the reins, moving her pony's head round 
so that she could go forward without driving over him. 

"I'm sorry," she said, coldly. "I have no prejudices 
myself, but I also have no right to interfere with the 
prejudices of other people. You must make your own way. 
Please let me pass " 

The pony started under the cut of her whip, and Barclay 
instantly jumped out of danger. He stood then in the 
middle of the dusty road, his hands clenched at his side, 
his cheeks wet. He was crying with the helpless passion 
of a child. 



THE INTERLOPERS 39 

Mean*vhile, the swift Indian nightfall had risen up out 
of the plain to Gaya's hilltops pouring its shadow army 
into the dak-bungalow's neglected garden, veiling its ramb- 
ling decay with an unfathomable, shapeless beauty. 

The Rajah had been the last to leave, lingering clumsily 
and obsequiously to the limits of the law, but now even he 
had gone, and in the place of the voices and subdued 
laughter there was nothing but the flutter of a night-bird 
among the 4;rees, the hushed, mysterious rustlings and 
whisperings of darkness. 

Sigrid Fersen had drawn her chair near to the verandah. 
A lamp burnt behind her, and she was reading intently in 
some old vellum-bound book. Mrs. Smithers sat opposite 
her, knitting a sock, which even now that the day's heat 
was over had a curiously smothering and woolly appear- 
ance. From time to time her faded, truculent blue eyes 
glanced across to the figure beneath the light, and their 
habitual expression of grim disapproval yielded to a wistful 
anxiety. 

For half an hour there had been no sound but the turning 
over of the thick leaves and the click of the knitting-needles. 
Now Sigrid Fersen touched the soft-voiced silver bell 
beside her. The curtains at the far end of the room parted 
almost immediately in answer. 

" Tell the syce to have the best horse in the stable saddled 
by daybreak," she said. ." I am riding to Heerut. I shall 
need a guide." 

There was a moment's perceptible hesitation. The ayah's 
roe-eyes were large with trouble. 

" Mem-Sahib, there is much sickness in Heerut." 

" I know." 

" It maybe? Mem-Sahib, that no guide will dare " 

' ' He need not accompany me further than the river. 
See to it." 

"It shall be done, Mem-Sahib." 

The curtains fell noiselessly in their place. Mrs. Smithers 
dropped her knitting-needles. 

" Oh, Lawks a-mercy ! " she said. " Lawks a-mercy ! " 

It was as though some solemn old Egyptian sphinx had 
broken into broad Cockney, and, having given vent to its 
feelings, relapsed into the historic pose of unfathomable and 
supercilious meditation. Sigrid Fersen closed her book. She 
rested her head on its smooth yellow surface with a curious 
tenderness. 



40 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" You mustn't be unhappy, Smithy, and you mustn't 
try to prevent me. One way or the other, my days are 
numbered, and each one of them has to be an episode, 
something definite and new, something to take with me or 

to look back on. Afterwards " Her voice lifted from 

its veiled softness and rang clearer. " We have travelled 
a long, long way, Smithy, and now we are almost at the 
end. You have seen it all with your wise old eyes, perhaps 
better than I have, and you know what life is. What shall 
it be, Smithy ? " 

The old woman clasped her knotted hands together and 
rocked herself slowly backwards and forwards. 

" I don't know I don't know. It's just a nightmare. 
I wake up sometimes o' nights and ask myself if I've gone 
clean mad, or what we're doing here in this awful heathen 
country you, the greatest of 'em all, hobnobbing with 
ninnies wot don't know Taglionifrom Queen Elizabeth, and 
me trying to be a lady by dint of keeping my mouth shut 
like a mouse-trap me, that stood and waited for you night 
after night and ' dressed ' you quicker than the smartest 
of them lawks a-mercy, wot am / doing here ? " 

Sigrid Fersen got up slowly, putting her book on the 
table, and came and stood at her companion's side. She 
caressed the grenadine-clad shoulder lightly, affection- 
ately. 

" You're here because I am, and because you've stuck to 
me through everything. You can't help sticking to me any 
more than I can help wanting you somewhere in the back- 
ground. And I'm here because of this" she laid her 

hand on her left side 7 " and this " She opened a 

drawer in the table, and, taking out a little shiny-backed 
note-book, dropped it into the old woman's* lap. "Open 
it. Now take the bottom figure on the right-hand column 
from the bottom figure on the left. What does it leave ? " 

.Mrs. Smithers coughed apologetically. 

" I never was a hand at figures, Sigrid." 

" Xever mind. Take your time." 

" I don't know rightly it looks to me like a thousand." 

" That must be about right. Well, that's what we've 
got. Xo more. What would you have me do teaeh 
dancing to loutish girls in some stuffy English suburb ? N < >, 
Smithy. You wouldn't. In my art there is no one gnat er 
than I there never has been and though I want to live 
I mustn't burn out like some poor candle. I must be a 



THE INTERLOPERS 41 

splendid rocket, lighting up all the country, and most 
splendid of all at the last. Then darkness." 

The old woman put up her hand blindly. 

" Oh, my dear, my dear " 

Sigrid Fersen seemed to have forgotten her. 

"'To die in beauty.' That's Ibsen. It's the most 
^wonderful thought in the world. It's the only prayer I 
know. Not squalidly, not in misery and decay and ugliness, 
but in beauty. That is the goal of life." 

" I don't understand, Sigrid. And I can't believe it all. 
I can't. Never to wait for you in the wings never to hear 
men shout for you and see the women crying for love of 
you. Never to hear you silence them all so that they don't 
even seem to breathe. Lawks a-mercy, when I think of 
that there waltz Chopin, wasn't it the tune runs in my 
head now I can see the faces in the front row, white as 
death, Sigrid, as though they had seen " 

Her voice cracked. Sigrid Fersen turned away from her. 

"No never again or perhaps once more just 
once " 

She went out on to the verandah and stood there motion- 
less, her face lifted to the darkness. 



CHAPTER V 

A VISION OF THE BACKWATER 

THE Dakktar Sahib stepped carefully over the body of 
Ayeshi, who lay asleep inside the doorway and went 
down the centre of the street. The village was 
silent and seemingly deserted. Even the grain-dealer, 
Lalloo by name, not unknown as a moneylender with Eastern 
ideas on interest- had deserted his wooden booth, and the 
lean dogs which were wont to nose hungrily in the gutters 
had gone elsewhere for their hunting-ground. The gutters 
themselves were clean ; there was no cattle to wander hap- 
lessly in and out of the open doorways ; the half -naked 
babies were hidden and silent. And in all this silence and 
garnished peace there was something ominous and dreadful. 
A mighty scavenger had passed through the village and 
swept it clear of refuse and misery and sickness and 
life itself. Heerut lay under the burning midday sun 
like a body awaiting burial, wrapped in the orderliness 
of death, silent, colourless, for all its piteous poverty, 
majestic. 

Tristram's footsteps rang out loudly in the stillness. 
He alone was alive and bore the agony and stress of life 
stamped on his body. He was ugly with the ugliness of a 
soldier returning from the battle-field. His clothes were 
dirty. He reeled drunkenly, his eyes were bloodshot and 
swollen in their deep sockets, and a month's growth of red- 
dish beard covered his long chin. He might have passed 
for a spectre of Death itself, stalking through the place of 
its visitation. 

He reached the village cross-roads. The pointed leaves 
of the council-tree hung limply, their soft mysterious 
voices hushed. Underneath, the earth was scarred and 
burnt by the bonfires around which the village elders 

42 



A VISION OF THE BACKWATER 43 

clustered at nightfall, listening to the tales from the great 
past. There had been no bonfire for many nights, and the 
elders had gone their ways. 

Tristram went on, out of the village, across the ancient, 
half obliterated path of Auspiciousness, through the coarse 
jungle grass to the river. It flowed broad and swift, swirling 
against its muddy, artificial barrier with sullen impatience, 
its further bank lost in the blaze and shimmer of heat. 
Tristram went on, past the temple whose battered walls 
glowed warm and golden in the sunlight, to the clump of 
trees bej 7 ond. He entered their shade at a stumbling run 
like a man seeking refuge from pursuers, and burst through 
the tangled undergrowth with the whole weight of his 
body. 

Here, beneath the branches of the stately Mohwa trees, 
the Ganges had built herself a backwater. Her waters, 
grey still with the snows of her mountain mother, had 
turned from their stern course and become clear as crystal 
and still as the surface of a mirror. They reflected softly 
the flaming green of the overhanging foliage and the red 
and gold of the strange flowers growing on their banks. A 
lotus-flower floated like a fairy palace in a patch of subdued 
sunshine, its pale petals half open and delicately tipped with 
pink as though the light had awakened them from their 
white sleep to life. Beneath, in the shining, deceptive 
depths was a world of mystery, forests of twining, sinuous 
growths, the monster blossoms swaying in the under- 
current. 

Tristram dropped down on his knees at the water's edge 
and then rolled over with his face hidden on his arm. He 
lay so still that a golden lizard flashed out from the long 
grass and lingered almost at his elbow and a water-hen 
gliding down on to the breast of the water preened herself 
in complacent security. 

The patch of sunlight moved on. It left the lotus-flower 
in an emerald shadow, and rested like a bright, watchful eye 
on a patch of flaming poppies on the further bank. The 
silence deepened. Even the gentle parting of the under- 
growth behind the spot where Tristram slept brought no 
sound. With a noiseless strength the lean hands of Vahana . 
the Sadhu, pressed back the opposing branches. He came 
forward so slowly, so stealthily, that the foliage seemed 
rather to thin imperceptibly before him like a green mist, 
leaving him at last unveiled on the fringe of the clearing. 



44 

Even then it was as though he had been there always, not 
a man, not even living, but the dead twisted stump of 
tempest-riven tree. 

But the water-hen heard and saw him and rose with a 
whirr of wings. The lizard flashed back into his hiding- 
place. 

Tristram did not stir. The emaciated, half -naked body 
glided towards him and bent over him. For a long minute 
Yahana remained thus, scrutinising the half-hidden face 
of the sleeper, then he stood upright, tossing the hair 
from his w r ild eyes, his long, fleshless arms raised high 
above his head, with a gesture that was as a "salute to 
some oncoming, resistless destiny. Then, in an instant, 
he seemed to shrivel, his arm sank and with one swift 
glance about him he turned and vanished among the 
trees. 

Tristram awoke suddenly, but not completely. He i < 
on his elbow, gazing at the blur of colour before him with 
heavy eyes, then drew himself up and, with the clumsiness 
of a drunken man, began to undress. Presently he 
slipped into the quiet water ; the circles widened about him, 
and the lotus-flower rocked on the breast of the strange 
upheaval, but after that the intruder scarcely moved. He 
became as one of the giant weeds growing amidst the stones, 
upborne by the water, himself inert and quiescent. His 
head was thrown slightly back and his eyes had closed 
again. 

Hah* an hour later, when he scrambled back on to the 
bank, the agony of exhaustion had been washed from him. 
He held himself upright to the air and sun, his body shining 
white and splendid against the background of foliage, the 
joy of life in every muscle, in every firm and graceful line. 
Then, with a sigh of unutterable content, he began to dress 
leisurely, retrieved a battered cigarette case and a box of 
matches and crouched down, tailor fashion, amidst the 
grasses. For a time he smoked peacefully, watching the 
light changing on the water and the swift moving life that 
hid in the shallows and darted out between the stones and 
swaying weeds. The lizard, tempted by his quiet and 
perhaps some luscious prospect of supper, wriggled out and 
took grave stock of him, and he stared back as motionless 
and absorbed, until the forgotten cigarette burnt him, when 
lie swore and the lizard vanished like a tiny golden streak 
into its fastness. The man laughed to himself and dropped 



A VISION OF THE BACKWATER 45 

back upon his elbow. A smile still lingered about his mouth, 
but his eyes under the big square brows had forgotten their 
amusement. They were fixed dreamily ahead, and what 
they saw smoothed out the last lines of tension from his 
features, and lent them a look of youth and tenderness. 
And presently he dropped back, and, with his hands clasped 
behind his head, stared up into the shadowing green, as 
though whatever dream he conjured up had taken refuge 
there. 

He slept again, not heavily as before but on the border- 
land of consciousness where thoughts break from their 
moorings, and sail out into a magic, restless sea of change 
whose bed lies littered with forgotten treasures. When 
the thud of hoofs broke on the stillness a dream rose up 
and shielded him, covering the sound with a fantastic 
picture, so that he slept on. 

The patch of sunshine travelled upwards. It had for- 
saken the poppies as it had left the lotus-flower, and rested 
on the fair head of a woman.' 

Though Tristram saw her he did not move. 

She stood scarcely five paces from him near an opening 
in the trees. One hand rested on the bridle of a tired 
horse, the other was lifted to her face, the forefinger to her 
lips, half in reflection, half as though hushing her own 
breathing. A pith helmet and the white coat of her 
simple riding-habit were fastened carelessly to the pommel 
of her saddle. 

She stood quite motionless as still and living as a bird 
resting among the flowers. It was that wonderful, re- 
strained lightness in her that made her seem smaller and 
more fragile than she was. Her hair, of a gold paler than 
the sunlight and parted primly in the middle, waved down 
smoothly on a forehead that was high and too domed for 
beauty. Her face was small, more round than oval, with 
small features, exquisitely imperfect, demure and resolute. 
There was something Victorian about her, and something 
vitally modern. It was as though a Botticellian Madonna 
had thrown off her serene and lovely foolishness and stepped 
down into life with the mocking happy humour of a faun 
at the corners of her fine lips and the wisdom of the world 
in her eyes. And added to all this there was in her expres- 
sion an odd touch of an impersonal, aloof pity and tender- 
ness. 

She stood there looking down at the man in the grass 



46 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

with her subdued smile, and he stared back at her. Then 
presently she spoke . 

" How do you do, Major Tristram ? My name is Fersen 
Sigrid Fersen." 

" I know," he answered. His own voice seemed to 
break a spell, for he shot up as though she had struck him, 
his hand flying to the neck of his graceless, unbuttoned, 
collarless shirt. " I beg your pardon I'm awfully sorry 
I'd been asleep and day-dreaming I thought you were 
just not real " 

" A sort of concrete vision ? " she suggested. 

" It sounds absurd, of course, but it wasn't an ordinary 
sleep. In fact, barring to-day, I don't know when I slept 
last. That makes a man queer " 

" Obviously." Her enigmatic kindly smile was like 
sunshine on her demure gravity. " For instance, you 
said 'I know' when I introduced myself." The blood 
welled up under the man's brown skin, and she went on 
lightly. " I saw you half an hour ago. The shade 
tempted me I was hot and tired: Fortunately I came 
quietly. You had just come out of the water and stood 
there like a young Beethoven ' this kise to the whole 
world ' " 

" I felt like that," he stammered. " It just expresses 
it only " 

" Of course I went away at once," she said. " I felt 
you would be disconcerted if you knew possibly very 
shocked. You may be now for all I know." 

He looked down at his right hand, and then, as though it 
annoyed him, thrust it into his pocket. 
' No," he said, " I'm not." 

" I didn't think you would be." She led her horse 
down to the water, and, with accustomed fingers, un- 
fastened the bit. " Please sit down again Major 
Tristram." 

He obeyed her instantly, and with his big hands clasped 
about his knees watched her as she came towards him . The 
blood was still dark in his face. 

" I'm wondering how you knew me," he said abruptly. 

" Gay a described you." 

He burst out into a big laugh. 

" My word ! Did Gaya tell you I usually went about 
with nothing on or in these evil-smelling rags ? " 

"It is enough that I recognised you," she said primly. 



A VISION OF THE BACKWATER 47 

She added, as an after- thought : " They didn't tell me you 
were so beautiful." 

" Me beautiful ? " 

"As far as your figure goes." 

" And my face ? " 

She looked at him whimsically. 

" No, not exactly." She slipped down into the long 
grass beside him with an effortless, unconscious grace. 
" We're rather like each other," she went on, " both of us 
how shall I say ? plain, and both of us quite lovely 
in our way. A perfect body is worth more than a 
perfect nose." 

" Yes," he agreed. His voice sounded suddenly thick 
and tired and he looked away from her. " You're not 
alone, are you ? " he asked. 

" I have been. I've a faithful syce waiting at the 
bridge-head five miles up. He wouldn't come any further. 

Perhaps " She studied his hard-set profile with amused 

eyes. " Perhaps you're wishing I hadn't burst in upon 
you, or perhaps you share Gaya's dismay." 

"Was Gay a dismayed ? " 

" Very. One or two are still. They thought I was 
an adventuress, partly on account of the Rajah and partly 
on account of my profession. And they were quite right." 
The laughter died out of her. Her voice sounded grave 
and eager. " I am an adventuress. I can't conceive 
myself being anything else. To live is to explore an 
unknown country, with every day a step forward. Some 
people shrink from it and cringe at home, and when they're 
taken by the scruff of the neck and flung out they're fright- 
ened and helpless. I'm not like that you're not. Even 
my art was an adventure the greatest. Every bar of 
music, every step, every inspiration that came to me, was 
like a mountain peak scaled and new vista into a new 
country. Do you understand ? " 

He turned to her, his sunken, red-rimmed eyes warm with 
a generous, almost passionate sympathy. 

" I can understand your feeling like that I do too, 
in my way, especially out here. Out here nothing lasts. 
Every day brings change the very trees and flowers and 
fields and forests I don't know how it is one says 
good-night to them and in the morning it's as though 
new friends had taken their place people whom one had 
to study and wonder at and then " He turned away 



48 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

from her again and stared down at his strong hands 
" anything can happen the most wonderful, impossible 
things- 
She did not answer him. When she spoke again it was 
after a long silence and more lightly. 

" I don't believe you're an official at all," she said. 
" You don't talk like one. You haven't asked me what 
business I have here or tell me that I am a danger to 
myself and a nuisance to every one else. Why haven't 
you ? " 

" I forgot," he answered quietly. " For one thing, I 
knew, you were not afraid, and people who are not 
afraid have nothing to fear. And l>c<i<lcs that, the in- 
fection is over in Heerut. The poor beggars are either 
underground or isolated miles away. I did that ' on 
my own,' and I expect there'll be lots of trouble 
about it." 

" You've had a bad time." 

" Yes," he said simply. 

".Mr>. Compton told me. I was immensely interested, 
and made up my mind to call on you. The ' lone fight ' 
has always thrilled me. I don't care whether the fighter 
is a murderer or a hero so long as he fights against 
odds." 

He laughed. 

" Well, I'm not a criminal or a hero," he said. 

" You can't tell. We're all potentially one or the other 
or both." 

He seemed on the verge of protest, but, looking at her, 
dropped to silence. She leant forward, her chin in the 
palm of her hand, and he saw that she smiled to herself, her 
eyes intent on the shadowy water. 

" Doesn't Brahma sleep in the heart of that lotus-flower, 
Major Tristram ? " 

' lie did once so they say. And it is the lotus-flower 
which encloses our world. When the pink-tipped petals 
open then it is dawn with us." He hesitated, and 
then added wijh a shy laugh, " Shall I fetch it for 
you ? " 

No, why spoil it ? It is loveliest where it is." 

" Yes, I know but if you had wished it " He 

broke off. " Somehow I'm glad you didn't," he said 
almost inaudibly. 

The quiet rose up between them. It was like a mist, 



49 

veiling them from each other with a drowsy peace. When 
she spoke again her voice sounded gay but subdued. 

" Major Tristram, I'm disappointed I meant to drop 
on you like a bombshell and here you sit next me as though 
it was the sort of thing you had done all your life. You 
don't even bother to talk to me. Do you think we were 
married in our last pilgrimage ? " 

The man turned his head away from her. 

" Anything seems possible, here," he answered. 

" Even hunger," she suggested gravely. 

" Hunger 1 " 

The dreamy unreality which had sunk upon them dis- 
solved, letting through the light of every-day facts. She 
laughed at him. 

" I'm hungry. I haven't eaten anything since dawn, 
and I didn't bring food because Mrs. Compton said you 
practically lived here. I was sure after the first skirmish 
that you'd ask me to tea." 

He was on his feet now less with eagerness than with a 
half- angry consternation. 

" Mrs. Compton misled you " he began hotly. 

" She didn't she didn't know I was coming. Are you 
going to let me starve ? " 

"I do live here," he went on stammeringly, "but 
in a native hove 1 ! like the rest of them. I can't take you 
there." 

" Why not ? " Her eyes were mocking, her lips 
pursed into a demure, ironic challenge. " Don't you 
want to ? " 

" It's not that " His opposition collapsed and he 

faltered like a boy. " Only well, I daresay you know 
what they call me Tristram the Hermit. It's because 
I've had to live alone so much. No one comes out here. 
I've got accustomed to it. I'm like a miser with my 
loneliness." 

" Then I had better go," she said gravely. 

" No not now. I want you to come. You'll under- 
stand better " 

He bridled her horse and brought it to her. For a 
moment they looked at each other with a steadiness in 
which there was a vague antagonism. Then the man 
stooped, hiding his face, and placed his hands for her to 
mount. She scarcely seemed to touch them. He looked 
up into her small face, flushed now with an eager 



50 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

colour. " You are lighter than the leaf on the wind," 
he said. 

She laughed, but her laugh was more meditative than gay. 

" And you, Major Tristram, are a poet in the wilderness," 
she answered. 



CHAPTER VT 

BROKEN SANCTUARY 

HE walked beside her, his hand light on her bridle, 
and silently they made their way through the 
long grass, along the banks of the grey, wide flowing 
river, past the temple, and into the empty village streets. 
Only once did she speak to him, bending slightly towards 
him in her saddle. 

" I have been wondering what your name is," she said, 
" your other name. I'm been trying to fit you with one." 

" Tristram," he said. 

" Tristram Tristram ? " 

He nodded, and she repeated the name thoughtfully 
under her breath. 

" That's a curious repetition " 

" Yes, my mother liked it. It's the only thing we've 
ever quarrelled about. I tell her she suffered from lack of 
imagination, and that she took a mean advantage over my 
helplessness. What could anybody expect of a Tristram 
Tristram ? " 

" And yet it suits you somehow." 

" I'm not flattered," he answered laughing. 

The magic sunlight had gone and the low thatched huts 
were grey and sordid in the rising tide of shadow. Here 
and there a golden patch lingered palely, and the council- 
tree at the csoss roads blazed in the full flood from the west. 

" This is my home," Tristram said. 

The hut from the outside was not different from its 
fellows, save for the big windows that had been cut in the 
mud wall. The rough wooden doors stood open. Sigrid 
Fersen slipped out of her saddle and for a moment he 
barred her path. " You won't let me go forward to pre- 
pare the way ? " he asked. 

" No I want to see what you are like, Major Tristram." 

61 



62 w TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" It's as though I made you a confession," he said un- 
evenly. 

" I am woman enough to want to hear it." 

He stood aside and she passed through the low doorway. 
At other times the contrast to the foetid street outside 
must have been overwhelming, but even now the dwelling's 
cool monastic purity arrested her on the threshold. A 
curtained doorway appeared to lead into a second apart- 
ment. There was scarcely any furniture a chair, a table, 
a couple of Persian rugs on the uneven floor, a pile of cus- 
hions heaped into a divan against the wall. Nothing on 
the walls. Yet the old, exquisitely shaded rugs were 
probably priceless, and all the art and mysterious symbolism 
of India had gone into the carving of the great chair whose 
high back was Brahma the Creator and whose wide arms 
were pictured with strange fantasies of the Avatars. As 
her eyes grew accustomed to the twilight the woman saw 
beyond this dignity to details that brought a sudden 
laugh to her lips. A yellow ball that looked like a spotted 
St. Bernard pup rolled yelping off the cushions, displaying 
its teeth and a bandaged paw, and thereby rousing its bed- 
fellow a common English tabby, who stretched itself, 
threw an off-hand curse at its disturber, then advanced 
arching its back and purring stornfily. Sigrid bent down 
to stroke him, but he passed on with the crushing disdain 
of his race and rubbed himself against Tristram's leg. 

" That's Tim," Tristram explained. " He has a wife, 
but she's probably out hunting. To tell the truth, she 
does most of the work. There were half a dozen kittens, 
but they died, worse luck. Couldn't stand the heat." 

" Anything else ? " 

" Wickie isn't here. And Arabella. Laid up, both of 
them." 

" And pray what is Wickie and what is Arabella ? " she 
persisted. 

" / call Wickie a dog and Arabella a horse," he answered 
solemnly, " but I'm told the matter is open to dispute. 
Wickie's boarding out with Miss Boucicault."- 

" Ah, Anne Boucicault ! " She echoed the name with an 
amused inflection of her quiet voice. " An odd little 
person who detests me. And she is so touchingly con- 
scientious about it. Not in the least spiteful, only very 

religious and full of doubts and scruples " She made 

a little gesture which seemed to brush Anne Boucicault 



BROKEN SANCTUARY 53 

into nothingness. " Go on with your menagerie, Major 
Tristram. Introduce that terrifying little growl-box." 

He picked up the yellow ball by the scruff of its neck 
and offered up his fist to the ineffectual first teeth as a 
sacrifice. 

" A cheetah cub. I found him on the edge of the forest 
with his paw broken. He's nearly all right now, and will 
be able to go home/' 

" And start his criminal career," she suggested. 

He laughed. 

' ' Oh well, that's the risk the world runs every time a new 
infant is brought into it," he retorted. But he had become 
suddenly embarrassed, almost guilty-looking, and, after 
one glance at him from quizzical brows, she changed the 
subject. 

" Am I at liberty to inspect, Major Tristram ? " 

" You must do whatever you wish." He stood at the 
entrance to the hut and watched her as she crossed straight- 
way to the writing-table. His face, now in shadow, was 
set in grim resolution. There were two large photographs 
on the table, and one of these she piqked up and held to 
the light. * 

" A fine old face your mother, Major Tristram ? " 

" Yes," he assented briefly. 

" She must be very beautiful." 

" I think she is," he answered, with a sudden relaxing of 
his strained features. 

" Not a bit like you." 

He feigned a rueful discontent. 

" Not a bit. I always tell her that she was jealous, and 
wouldn't spare me so much as one good feature." 

" Whereat, I hope, she boxes your ears for your in- 
gratitude, you mortal with the perfect body ! " She re- 
placed the picture regretfully. " And this " 

She broke off. It became very still in the low-roofed 
room. Even the cheetah had ceased its infant growlings 
as though it felt the tension in the quiet about him. Tris- 
tram threw back his head, his chin thrust out, and did not 
speak. Suddenly she turned to him. Her lips were parted, 
in a wide, eager smile that was like a child's. Impulsively, 
ingenuously, she held out her ungloved hand to him, palm 
downwards. 

" Is that your confession, Tristram Tristram ! " 

For one instant he wavered, the next he was at her side, 



54 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

had taken her hand and bowed over it and kissed it. Then 
he stood back, defiant, trembling, like a man who has 
committed a world-staggering enormity. But to her, it 
seemed, nothing had happened, nothing that she had not 
willed and desired. Still smiling, she turned away from him 
and, seating herself in the high-backed chair, placed the 
photograph where she could see it best. Then she became 
intent, absorbed. The brief incident and the man who 
watched her waveringly seemed to have been swallowed 
up in something greater, some passionate feeling. Without 
a word he left her and she did not hear him go. It was 
only when he returned presently and placed a cup and 
saucer before her that she looked up, colouring faintly. 

" A poet in the wilderness and now Worcester ! Major 
Tristram, I begin to think ypu are a rather strange and 
wonderful doctor ! " 

He smiled with frank pleasure in her pleasure. 

" I love beautiful things," he said. " I fancy they are 
to me what wine is to some men. " I'm like my mother in 
that. She understands. She saved and saved to buy me 
that cup. There's teapot not to match I hate sets 
but equally lovely. You shall see it when* the water 
boils." 

" And the chair and these rugs ! I know a Park Lane 
plutocrat who would sell his greasy soul for them. Was 
that your mother too ? " 

" Xo, the rugs are a gift from Lalloo the money-lender. 
His baby son had a bout of something or other, but got 
over it, and Lalloo wanted to shower blessings on some- 
body. He knows the markets for rare things and I have a 
shrewd, painful suspicion that he used unholy forces of 
financial coercion to get hold of these. Ayeshi carved the 
chair for me." 

" Is Ayeshi a wood-pecker, or what ? " she asked gaily. 

He laughed with her. 

" Xo my aide-de-camp, ^orderly, servant, friend, all in 
one. Rather a wonderful sort of person. Heaven alone 
knows where he came from. He was brought to me by 
Mian who ' owned ' him, he was suffering from snake- 
l.'ite. and after the cure he stuck to me. Nobody minded. 
The people he lived with were afraid of him." 

' Why ? " she a-ke<l. 

"Oh, I don't know he wasn't of their caste anyone 
could see that. He is a Brahmin of the Brahmins, and 



55 

believes in his gods. There isn't anything so disconcert- 
ing to conventional religionists as genuine belief." Tris- 
tram was on his way to the door of the inner room. Ha 
stopped a moment and looked back at her. " And he can 
tell the most wonderful stories," he went on slowly, as 
though overtaken by some memory. "One day you 
must listen to him as I do by the firelight, with night 
overhead." 

"I shall come," she answered deliberately. "And I 
shall see the snake-bite on his arm and think of the story 
of the man who saved him." 

Tristram had gone. She laughed a little and then fell 
to her old brooding contemplation of the picture at her 
elbow. But when he returned with the promised teapot 
and a plate of sandwiches she pushed it impatiently from 
her. 

" Tell me, Major Tristram, are you glad I've* broken into 
your sanctuary ? " she asked abruptly. 

He poured her tea out for her with a hand that shook a 
little. 

"I don't know " 

" That's ungracious, Major Tristram. But you're alto- 
gether unexpected. Even this room it's not a man's room. 
Where are your guns, your skins, your trophies ? " 

He looked about him, flushing to the roots of his fair, 
untidy hair. 

"I haven't got any I never had a gun of my own. 
I've got an Army pistol somewhere in the kitchen, but it's 
got rusty and I don't know what would happen if I fired 
it." He put the sandwiches near to her and then Stalked 
across to the doorway and sat down cross-legged on the 
rug, his irregular profile cut sharply against the light. " I 
can't kill things," he said doggedly. 

" Go on, Major Tristram. I am getting almost excited. 
A man who can't kill things ! " 

He heard the irony in her voice and winced, but did not 
look at her. 

" Oh I know it's ridiculous laughable. Compton says 
I'm a sentimentalist a freak. I can't help it." 

"Is it a theory Tolstoyism, Jainism ?," 

He shook his head. 

" I haven't any theories'' it's just instinct perhaps a 
kind of revulsion. My father was the finest shot in the 
Indian Army. Once when I was in Scotland I killed a 



66 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

stag. I felt beastly like a sort of cowardly criminal 
who couldn't be punished and knew it." 

" Still go on. Tell me more. I came here to get to 
know you, Major Tristram, and I am a spoilt woman. 
Yes, you are a freak. I want to know how freaks originate. 
Tell me no, not about your father I have a fancy he was 
not freakish but your mother " 

He stiffened, averting his head, his brows stern. 

" My mother is different " he began proudly. 

" You have known me so long," she interrupted, " did 
you think I meant to joke at her ? Haven't you under- 
stood better than that ? " 

He turned. Twilight had begun to invest them both. In 
the great carved chair among the shadows she looked almost 
luminous, a white spirit neither of heaven nor earth, 
aloof and radiant in fairy immortality and serene with a 
wisdom high above the man's painful plodding. Seeing 
her, he caught his breath ; the anger passed from his face, 
leaving it with a curious look of bewilderment and pain. 

"I'm sorry ' he said unevenly. "Of course I 

ought to have known. But I am a heavy, unpresentable 
fellow rather ridiculous too and I didn't want you to 
think I was like her." He turned away again, his eyes 
intent on the dark strong hands clasped about his knees. 
" As to my antecedents, there isn't much to tell. My father 
was a Captain in the Indian Army. He was killed out here 
in Gaya when I was a baby. No one ever found out how 
it happened. My mother was in England at the time. She 
had nothing but her pension. She starved herself to keep 
me fit and give me my chance." He broke off sharply. 
" I'd rather not talk about that. It means a responsibility 
that would be intolerable if I wasn't so proud of it it 
would be awful to fail a woman who had starved for 
you." 

" I can understand that, Major Tristram." 

He seemed to listen a moment as though to an echo of 
her low voice. 

" All my people had been in the Indian Army," he went 
on. " I knew I should make# dismal failure of soldiering. 
It seemed to me it's my nearest approach to a theory 
that it's a man's business to make life more tolerable not 
to destroy it. So I compromised with the I.M.S. And 
here I am." 

11 A hermit ! " She leant forward, with her chin resting 



BROKEN SANCTUARY 57 

in the palm of her hand. " Is that also part of your law 
of life, Major Tristram ] " 

" I have my work," he answered. " It's a huge district, 
and I've got to be at it all the time. It is my life. But 
I'm a queer cuss I have other thoughts too absurd day- 
dreams. I'm alone so much that it's natural enough- 
and if I came much among men and women I should be 
afraid " 

" that the vision might become concrete." She waited 
a moment " or fail you." 

He shook his head. 

" No not that. But since I have got to be alone always 
I mustn't want anything too badly." 

She got up suddenly. 

" It is getting late/' she said. " I promised to be at 
the bridge-head by nine. Mr. Radcliffe, who is in the 
adventure, meets me there and escorts me back to safety. 
We should be home by midnight, and to-morrow Gaya 
will have a new scandal. Mr. Radcliffe is very young. He 
will be so pleased." 

" I will come with you as far as the bridge-head," Tris-- 
tram returned gravely. 

" I had expected nothing less." 

For all her change of tone the suspense which had crept 
in upon them with the twilight remained unbroken. It lay 
upon the man like a quivering hand. As he led her horse 
through the black streets it vibrated on the hot obscurity. 
They came out on to the plain and it was there also, at his 
throat, suffocating him. 

Tho full moon hung low on the horizon like a silver lamp. 
There was nothing hid from it. It revealed and trans- 
figured fantastically ; the very blades of the high-standing 
grass were drawn in separate delicate lines of shadow, but 
they did not look like grass. The great river flooded 
through the darkness an endless winding army of ghosts 
whose murmur was never still. 

Sigrid Fersen looked down at the man beside her. As 
distance brings out the significance of a rough sketch, so 
now the grey half-light threw into relief lines and hollows, 
of his face which she had not seen before. They were as 
vigorous and ugly as they had ever been, yet their silhouette 
under the helmet run conveyed to her a new impression 
the thought of something chivalresque and simple, mystic 
and single-hearted a Pure Fool on the Threshold of his 



58 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Quest. She bent towards him, stroking her horse's neck 
with a gentle hand. 

" And I too have a theory, Tristram Tristram," she 
said, as though there had been no silence between them. 
" It is this that there can be no going back for any of us. 
We climb from experience to experience, and grow or shrivel 
as our experience is a high or low one. There was a man 
sleeping by the backwater. He is gone, and in his place 
you walk beside me." 

" Why should I not be the man by the backwater ? " he 
asked. " He knew you also." 

" Since when ? " 

" Since two years ago." 

" Tell me how he met me I have forgotten." 

" You never knew," he answered. " It was his last night 
in England. He had said good-bye to all he cared for, and 
he felt pretty bad. He knew what lay ahead of him 
lonely, hard years and perhaps no return. So he did what 
he had never done before, because money and pleasure had 
not come his way he took himself and his pain into a 
theatre. And there he saw you." 

" Well and then ? " 

" That's all. There was wonderful music, and you ex- 
plained it to him. You showed him a new beauty that he 
had never dreamed of, you unlocked a, door, and he entered 
a new world. When it was over he got up and left the 
theatre. He behaved like a boy he went and stood by 
the river until day broke." 

M And the photograph." 

" He bought it to take with him." 

She smiled to herself, tenderly, ironically. 

" It did not occur to him to ask for my autograph to 
seek me out." 

" No, then you would have been a reality to him an 
unattainable reality. He wanted you as a dream he could 
live with and conjure up at will." 

" As he did by the backwater." 

" Yes." He pointed out towards the grey bulk of the 
temple lying against the forest. His voice lost its habi- 
tual unevenness, and grew full and clear. " One thing you 
danced do you remember ? the ballet in Robert le Diable ? 
The scene was a church-yard an ugly thing of card-board 
and clumsy carpentering until you came. But out there is 
a real temple. At night the moon plays through the great 



BROKEN SANCTUARY 59 

sun- window of the Sikhara and fills the space between the 
pillars. And I have gone there at night-time and seen you 
dance." 

" Shall you go again, Tristram Tristram ? " 

" I don't know I don't know." 

They went on in silence. There was no sound but the 
song of the water and the swish of the grass at their feet. 
Presently she drew rein. 

" We are near the bridge ; I can hear voices, and I want 
to say good-bye to you now. I want to thank you. I have 
made- my experience, and climbed higher." 

He looked up at her with a wistful smile. 

" I don't know about that I don't know what I have 
done. I do know that I have grown frightened for you. 
I've been thinking of infection and cheetahs on the home 
road and all the horrors I don't believe in. I wish I could 
go with you to Gaya." 

" There is nothing to fear, Tristram Tristram. And you 
will come to Gaya to-morrow or the next day or next week 
and I shall play to you Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms all 
the most wonderful music in the world. I shall open new 
doors for you and new worlds " 

He shook his head. 

"There's cholera out in Bjura." 

" Still you will come " she answered. 

Her hand touched his. Then she was gone a speck of 
moving light into the darkness. 



CHAPTER VII 

ANNE BOUCICAULT EXPLAINS 

IT was Anne Boucicault's birthday her twenty-second 
and Owen Meredith had proposed her health in 
lemonade a beverage which he was assured had no 
unlucky superstition attached to it. The rest responded 
in champagne. It was not Colonel Boucicault's cham- 
pagne, though it was on his verandah that Gaya had 
gathered to celebrate. Jim Radcliffe, who, since his mid- 
night ride with Sigrid and the consequent hub-bub, had 
developed into a very debonair and self-confident young 
man, had produced a case-full with the satisfaction ami 
mystery of a popular conjurer, -and Mrs. Boucicault showed 
neither offence nor appreciation at this addition to her 
hospitality. She sat in the shade near the doorway and 
scarcely spoke. From time to time her hand rose 'involun- 
tarily to the high collar which had been added to her 
elaborate gown, and rested there as though it hid something 
painful. When a remark reached her a fitful smile quivered 
about her lips steadied to artificial gaiety. But her pale 
eyes were wide and unsmiling, their sight turned inwards 
on to some ugly vision, and never lifted from their unseeing 
watch on the avenue leading to the high-road. Anne sat on 
the arm of her chair and held her hand. She looked very 
young, and, whilst Meredith spoke, almost radiant. He had 
seen the colour creep back into her pale cheeks, and had 
become gay and eloquent and a little reckless. For all the 
lemonade, and the little chilly mannerisms of his calling, he 
was a passionate young man, and the sight of her fragile 
pleasure roused in him a fierce pity and tenderness. He 
betrayed himself, and did not know it. Afterwards, when he 
came and touched her long- stemmed glass with his tumbler, 
he lingered, looking down at her, his hazel eyes bright with 
a new purpose and an old hope suddenly and daringly set 
free. 

60 



ANNE BOUCICAULT EXPLAINS 61 

" Anne dear before I go to-night I have something I 
want to say to you. Give me a chance, will you ? " 

She met his eager gaze for an instant, and then her own 
eyes faltered and dropped. , She looked startled, a little, 
frightened, like a child that has been taken unawares, but 
her colour remained unchanged. 

" Of course -we shall be going into the garden. Come 
with me. I will show you our new rose- trees." 

" Thank you," he answered. He stood back, others 
crowded to take his place, and she received their good 
wishes much as she had received him, with a shy gracious- 
ness that made her appealingly attractive. Only when 
Sigrid Fersen held out her glass she stiffened, and grew sud- 
denly much older. It was as though for an instant they 
had changed places, and the girl had become the woman 
defending herself coldly and bitterly against the threat of 
youth. 

" And I can wish you nothing better than that you should 
always have some one like Mr. Meredith to wish you so much 
good, with so much fervour," Sigrid said lightly. She 
turned her head towards the man standing behind Anne 
Boucicault's chair, and her eyes in the shade of the big garden 
hat sparkled with subdued merriment and kindly mockery. 
" Tell me, is Mr. Meredith so eloquent in the pulpit ? " she 
asked. 

" You should hear him for yourself," Anne replied 
staidly. 

" But then, I never go to church." 

" That is a pity." She flushed a little, her mouth small 
and tight- looking. " It is especially a pity out here 
because of the natives. But then, of course, you haven't 
our responsibility." 

Meredith frowned slightly, not at Anne's words, but at 
the expression which he saw pass over the small face 
opposite him. It was still kindly, but the merriment had 
become ironic. Up to that moment he had felt nothing 
very definite towards her, recognising, with an unclerical 
modesty, that he did not understand her. Now he thrilled 
with an odd dislike. 

" I'm afraid my eloquence won't cure Miss Fersen's 
backsliding," he said, hurriedly good-humoured. "And, 
in the meantime, behold a new arrival, breathless with con- 
gratulations." 

The new arrival proved to be Wickie, escaped from the 



62 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

compound, who bounced up the verandah steps and ad- 
vanced among the scattered tables practising the in- 
gratiating squirm with which the Aberdeen masks his real 
impertinence. He was received with acclamation, partly 
for his master's sake, partly as a tribute to his own irresis- 
tible ugliness. Anne whistled timidly to him, but he ignored 
her and sniffed at Sigrid's outstretched hand. 

" It's almost as though he knew you," Anne said sharply. 

" Well, we know of each other at any rate, don't we, 
Wickie ? " 

" How 1 " The question was rude in its abruptness and 
Anne's manners were always very gentle. Sigrid Fersen 
did not look at her. She bent down and balanced a generous 
portion of cake on Wickie's hopeful snout. 

" Major Tristram told me about him," she said. 

" But Major Tristram has not been in Gaya since you 
arrived." 

" Nevertheless, we have met." She glanced across at 
Radcliffe who chuckled with boyish self-consciousness. 
" I paid Major Tristram a visit," she added. 

" At Heerut ? " 

" Well, we had tea there but we met by the river. 
Major Tristram had been bathing." 

Anne Boucicault sat very straight and still and hard-eyed. 
Meredith saw that her hands were clenched so that they 
were white at the knuckles, and again he felt the passing 
of a sudden emotion which was this time a mingling of 
inexplicable pain and dread. 

" That must have been an unusual dangerous adven- 
ture," Anne uttered from between stiff lips. 

" I had hoped that it might be it proved to be nothing 
but a very agreeable afternoon," was the answer. 

The dialogue passed unnoticed. Mrs. Brabazone was 
telling one of her only three stories, and trying to sort out 
the point. Gaya listened and waited reverently, and Mrs. 
Brabazone, being possessed of a fine sense of her own total 
lack of humour, finished with a round fat laugh which 
added a perfecting touch to her rotund figure and creaselesa, 
elderly face. 

"Anyhow, I do amuse you," she said triumphantly. 
" Nobody amuses you like I do. I don't believe you could 
get on without me. One of these days I shall have that 
story right, and then you'll see that it was worth waiting for 
it. You know, I always mix it up with the one about the 



63 

Lancashire woman who " She stopped, her mouth 

agape. " What on earth was that ? " she demanded 
sharply. 

" Firing," Mary Compton answered. She raised herself 
from her comfortable lounging attitude on the long chair, 
and leant forward with a curious expression on her alert 
face. " What was it, Mr. Radcliffe ? " 

The boy got up hurriedly, ostensibly to refill his neigh- 
bour's empty glass. His fresh-coloured face, not yet 
burnt with the Indian sun, had turned a dull red. 

" Oh, I don't know," he said. " Some silly ass over in 
the barracks. A rifle gone off by mistake. Or a sentry. 
The sentries have taken to firing at their own shadows." 

" It may have been at the barracks," Mrs. Compton 
pursued, " but that wasn't a rifle, Jim Radcliffe. It was 
a squad firing, and you know it." 

" And how do you know ? " Mrs. Brabazone broke in. 
" Sometimes, Mary, I feel that you can't be really nice. 
You do know such dreadfully unwomanly things." 

" I was shut up in Chitral with Archie when the regiment 
mutinied," Mrs. Compton retorted coolly. " I learnt to 
know the meaning of every sound even to the snapping of 
a twig under a naked foot." 

Mrs. Brabazone shook herself like a dog throwing off a 
douche of cold water. 

" My dear, don't ! You're trying to insinuate that we 
are on the verge of being murdered in our beds, and I know 
it perfectly well. I tell the Judge so every night, and he 
says he's sure I shall die of a broken heart if I have to go off 
peacefully. But then " 

Her voice trailed off. For once her headlong garrulity 
failed to evoke a response, and the little group of men and 
women sat silent, avoiding each other's eyes. It was very 
still again. A drowsy late afternoon peace hung over the 
shady garden at their feet. Yet the sound which had 
fallen lingered among them like a long- drawn- out echo. 
. They lived lightly and gaily, these people of Gaya, most 
blessed of Indian stations. Polo and tennis, a drag-hunt 
here and there, a constant happy-go-lucky exchange of 
hospitality, a close fraternity which allowed for scandal 
and malice and all uncharitableness, and never failed at a 
pinch. And then for an instant a rift a glimpse down 
into the thinly crusted abyss on which they danced a 
tightening of the lips, a laugh, a call for a new tune, a fine 



64 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

carrying-on of their life with the secret knowledge that 
their pleasure and their brotherhood was other and greater 
than they had thought. 

Mary Compton broke the silence. Her voice sounded 
light and careless. 

" I don't think we're going to die just yet, anyhow," she 
said ; " there's Colonel Boucicault. Perhaps he will con- 
descend to tell us what Mr. Radcliffe won't." She gave the 
latter one of those penetrating glances which made her a 
rather dreaded little personality, and immediately after- 
wards, catching sight of Mrs. Boucicault's face she flushed 
crimson. It was, as she afterwards expressed it, as though 
he had been caught eavesdropping or prying into a con- 
fession not meant for her reading. For Mrs. Boucicault had 
sunk together like a faded flower whose stem had been 
snapped. The elaborate lace dress and the jewelled hands 
in her lap added painfully to her look of broken helplessness. 
But it was in her eyes that Mary Compton had seen her 
self-betrayal. They were half closed, and from under 
the heavy lids they kept watch as a dog watches who has 
been beaten past protest, even past subjection into a 
terrible patient waiting. She pushed her daughter's hand 
aside, and Anne smiled down at her with an attempt at 
careless ease which had its own piteousness. 

Colonel Boucicault came up the verandah steps, his hand 
to his helmet with that exaggerated formality which made 
the greeting a veiled gibe. 

" I trust I don't interrupt," he said. " Anne is cele- 
brating, isn't she ? I heard whispers of something of the 
sort, but I was not invited. In fact, I suspect that the 
entertainment was fixed for the afternoon in the hopes 
that my duties might keep me elsewhere." 

He accepted the chair which his subaltern had vacated 
for him. " Thanks, Radcliffe, always the soul of correct- 
ness, and ever to be found where there is nothing more 
arduous going than champagne. Well, what are you all 
silent for ? Mrs. Brabazone, you are positively pale. Has 
anything happened ? " 

Mrs. Brabazone waved one of her podgy hands with a 
gesture that was probably an expression of an otherwise 
inarticulate rage. Boucicault laughed at her. Whether 
he had been drinking or not could not be said for certain. 
He never betrayed himself. His hands and his voice were 
equally steady. His complexion, sallow and unhealthy, 



ANNE BOUCICAULT EXPLAINS 65 

added to the unnatural brightness of his pale eyes, which, 
like the mouth under the heavy moustache, expressed a 
deliberate, insane cruelty. 

Anne Boucicault met his roving stare and tried to smile. 

" We heard firing," she stammered. " We didn't know 
what it was. We were rather frightened." 

" Frightened 1 Of course you were. You're given that 
way, aren't you, Anne ? " He held out an irritable hand 
for the glass which Meredith had filled for him." Well, you 
weren't the only one. Five more terrified wretches I never 
saw why, I can't think. A transmigration at this time 
of the year must be rather agreeable." 

Mary Compton turned her head sharply. 

"The five men who mutinied," she exclaimed, "they 
were shot just now ? " 

Though the sunlight was still strong the garden seemed 
to have suddenly passed into a chilling shadow. 

Colonel Boucicault nodded. 

" Yes, before the whole regiment with the exceptidh of 
this gentleman who had what was it the toothache ? " 
He lifted his glass towards Radcliffe, whose boyish face had 
whitened under the. taunt. " Allow me to congratulate 
you on your taste in champagne, sir. You should be in- 
valuable on the mess committee at any rate." 

Radcliffe's lips twitched but he made no answer, and it 
was Sigrid Fersen who spoke. She bent down, stroking 
Wickie's pointed ears with a deliberate hand. 

" Wasn't the execution a trifle ostentatious, Colonel 
Boucicault ? " she asked. 

He stared back at her, an ugly smile at the corner of his 
lips. 

" It was meant to be ostentatious. I'm afraid I cannot 
always consider the delicate female nerves." 

" My nerves weren't upset," she returned levelly. " I'm 
not afraid of anything." 

" Indeed ? " He seemed to meditate a moment, as 
(hough something either in her voice or appearance struck 
him, then jerked his head in Anne's direction. " My 
orderly told me there was a messenger for me. Bring him 
here." 

" Here, father ? " 

" That* was what I said." 

Anne slipped from her place, and, motioning Meredith 
aside, hurried into the house like some frightened little ani- 



66 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

mal. As she disappeared Mary Compton started a conver- 
sation which was taken up eagerly but without more than a 
faltering success. It failed altogether as Anne returned. 

" That's Ayeshi," Radcliffe whispered in Sigrid's ear. 

She looked up. The young Hindu had salaamed gravely, 
partly to Boucicault, partly to the assembled company 
and now stood upright and silent. He was barefooted, and 
the white loose clothes were grey with dust. Yet there was 
that in the carriage of his slender body and in the dark, 
delicate featured face which was arresting in its dignity. 
To Boucicault, possibly, the boy's untroubled ease appeared 
as insolence. He frowned at him moodily. 

" You are Major Tristram's servant," he asked in English. 

" Yes, Sahib." 

11 Well, he has not taught you manners. But that was 
hardly to be expected. You have brought a message ? " 

<( Yes, Sahib." 

" Deliver it." 

" It is by word of mouth, Sahib." 

" Well, then, deliver it, in Heaven's name." 

Ayeshi put his hand to his neck, pushing back the short 
black curls which escaped from under his turban. He 
seemed to become suddenly conscious of the attention cen- 
tred on him, and his eyes, moving over the watching faces, 
encountered Sigrid Fersen. He looked at her intently and 
then at the dog at her feet, and she saw that his lips quivered 
though not with fear. 

" It is that there is cholera at Bjura," he said. " The 
Dakktar Sahib is hard pressed, and begs for help." 

"He is always doing that. Tell him I have no one to 
send. Captain Treves is on furlough, and I should not dream 
of reoalling him. . The Dakktar Sahib must manage as best 
he cam." 

Ayeshi held his ground. His mouth had hardened. 

" The Dakktar Sahib is ill," he said. 

" Well, let the physician heal himself," Boucicault 
laughed. 

" Colonel Sahib it is urgent " 

Boucicault rose to. his feet. 

" You can go," he said. Then,' as Ayeshi lingered, with 
a suddenness that was awful in its expression of released 
ons, Boucicault lifted his hand and struck the native 
full on the mouth. " Now will you go ? " he said softly. 

Mrs. Brabazone screamed, but her voice was drowned 



AKNE BOUCICAULT EXPLAINS 67 

wholly by a more full-throated sound. Wickie, barking 
furiously and bristling with all the fighting fury of his 
Scottish forbears, broke from a long restraint and flung 
himself at the aggressor. Even his teeth, however, could 
not prevail against the leather riding-boots, and Boucicault 
kicked himself free. His passion had died down or had 
become something worse, a cold still fury. 

" What brute is this ? " he asked. He looked at Anne, 
and she tried to meet his eyes and timelier!. 

"It's Major Tristram's dog he gave it to me to take 
care of it had a broken paw it was shut up in the. com- 
pound I hoped you wouldn't mind, lather." 

Boucicault mHe no answer. He took the riding crop 
which he had carried. There was a tight line about his 
jaw which betrayed the grinding teeth, if 9 was very 
deliberate, almost ostentatious in -his purpose. An:,e 
watched him. She held out a hand of protest theft let 
it drop. Her pallor had become pitiful. Sigrid Tersen 
got up. She was so swift and light in her movement that 
no one realised what she was doing till it was done. She 
crossed the verandah and picked np Wickie in her arms, 
narrowly escaping the murderous descent of the riding- 
urop. Then she rose and faced him. 

" I like Wickie,' 5 she sa 1 . " From henceforward, Colonel 
Boucicault, he is under my protection." 

Boucicault drew back. His face was grey looking. 

" You have some courage, Mademoiselle," he said almost 
inaudibly. 

She smiled composedly. 

" I am not ' Mademoiselle/ and you know it, Colonel 
Boucicault. Also, as I said before, I am not afraid. I 
killed a mad dog once, and since then I have been afraid 
of nothing." She turned carelessly. Ayeshi stood behind 
her. There was blood on his mouth and on the hand which 
he had raised in self-defence. His eyes were full of a sick 
suffering which was terrible because it was not of the body. 
She laid her free hand on his arm. "You are hurt," she 
said ; " please go to my bungalow. Mrs. Smithers will look 
after you tell her I sent you. You mustn't mind what 
has happened " She looked back mockingly over her 
shoulder. " Colonel Boucicault is a little out of temper. 
He would hit me if he dared." 

There was a silence of sheer stupefaction. Mrs. Comp- 
ton's temperament, usually leashed by her passionate care 
3* 



68 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

for her husband's career, bolted with her, and she laughed 
outright, and Mrs. Brabazone settled herself back in her 
chair with a subdued complacency of one who has seen 
herself fitly avenged. But Anne Boucicault had risen to 
her feet. There was a look on her face more painful than 
her fear, and almost reckless in its self -betrayal. For an 
instant she stood looking at the woman who faced her 
father, and then without a word she turned and slipped 
into the room behind her. Meredith followed. He did 
not speak to her. He knew where she was going, and the 
knowledge gave him an odd comfort, as though in her need 
she had remembered him and turned to him. Like a 
shadow she glided along the dim passage* The verandah 
overlooking the rose-garden was deserted and the garden 
itself already full of a cool twilight which added to its sad 
air of neglect and d.eath. Roses grew well in Gaya, but 
they did not grow well in Anne's garden. She loved them, 
but not successfully. Meredith stood beside her as she 
lay huddled together on the old bench and waited. Though 
she was so still he felt that she was crying and the know- 
ledge stirred him to a compassion that was not one of 
understanding. In truth he understood as yet very little 
the mere surface of her grief. Presently he sat down 
beside her and drew her hand gently and resolutely from 
her face. It was wet with tears. 

" Anne ! " he said unsteadily. " Little Anne ! " Loy- 
ally unselfish and modest though he was, yet at that moment 
he accused himself of a tender insincerity as though his 
grief and pity were masks covering his own happiness. 
The thing for which he had longed and prayed had come 
to pass, so swiftly and splendidly that in his warm faith he 
seemed to recognise the hand of the God he prayed to. 
" You mustn't grieve so," he whispered. " People under- 
stand and we are all your friends. We know too what 
this country can do with a man's character we can make 
allowances. And then, dear, no harm was done. Mi>* 
Fersen saved the situation for us all." 

She withdrew her hand slowly and looked at him. Even 
then, in spite of her girl's tears and the veiling twilight, 
he wondered at the unyouthfulness of her expression. 

" Yes, I suppose she did. She saved VVickie. She was 
very brave." 

" I thought so too." 

" And yet I hate her." She made a quick gesture, 



ANNE BOUCICAULT EXPLAINS 69 

silencing his involuntary protest. " I hate her not 
wickedly. There is a hatred which isn't wicked the kind 
of thing we feel for what is harmful and evil. I've tested 
myself over and over again. I know I feel that she 
isn't a good woman she has no faith, no ideals. She has 
done harm in Gaya already she sticks at nothing and 
because of that she wins, and people yield to her and let 
her poison them. That is why I hate her." 

The man beside her was silent for a moment. He had no 
answer ready. He had felt nothing for Sigrid Fersen save 
a masculine admiration for her cool courage. Anne's 
passionate dislike, compared to what he hoped was coming 
to them both, seemed a little thing and yet it chilled him. 
The cold shadows of the neglected garden laid hands upon 
him, checking and paralysing the headlong impulse and 
joyous confidence with which men win victories. With an 
effort he tried to free himself. 

"You may be right," he said quietly, "I don't know. 
I'm no judge of character. But the truth is, I haven't 
thought about her. I haven't thought of any but the one 
woman of any one but you, Anne." He paused a 
moment. He no longer dared to look at her, but leant for- 
ward, his hands tightly interlocked, his eyes fixed on the 
on-coming tide of darkness. He did not know that his 
voice shook. " Anne, I haven't dared boast to myself 
and yet we have been so happy together we love the same 
things and have the same faith ; we look at life with the 
same eyes. All that is surely something. As to myself 
God knows how little I have to give you but I won't 
apologise for the rest not for my work. That is the grand- 
est, best thing I have to offer. -I know you think so too." 

" Yes, Owen." She put her small, unsteady hand on his 
arm. And for a second hope blazed up in him, dying down 
again to grey premonition. " And you weren't boastful to 
think I cared I do but not like that, Owen." 

Something impersonal within himself marvelled at the 
banality of tragedy. People made fun of scenes like this 
caricatured them. And he was sick with pain and weak- 
ness. 

" Little Anne you're so young how should you 
know ? " 

" I do know," she answered. 

Then he looked at her, driven out of himself by the 
simplicity and strength of her confession. She held herself 



70 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

upright and even though her face was full of shadow he 
could see the line of her mouth and it frightened him. 
He knew now what he had always refused to know. Ruth- 
lessly, from the secret depths where we bury our hated 
truths, he drew out a memory'and a fear and recognised 
them for what they were. The recognition was the end of 
the one hope of personal happiness he had granted himself, 
and it staggered him. Then the man and the Christian in 
him rose triumphant. 

"I won't pretend I don't guess," he said quietly and 
naturally. " I do. And, Anne, though I was selfish 
enough to want you myself still, there was one thing I 
did want more. It isn't a phrase it's honestly true. I 
wanted you to be happy. I think you will be I think 
you are so I haven't the right to grumble, have I ? " 

He tried to smile at her. Commonplace as his form of 
renunciation had been, he was not conscious now of any 
banality either in himself or her. He stood on that rarely 
ascended pinnacle whence men look down on their daily 
life and see in its tortuous monotony the weaving of a divine 
pattern. He felt for the instant glorified as some men are 
who stand before a miracle of nature, or a great picture, or 
listen to grand music. It was his vision of the Beautiful 
willing sacrifice, happy renunciation. 

But Anne Boucicault got up and stood beside him, very 
straight, her hands clenched at her sides. 

" I am not happy," she said. " I do not think I ever 
shall be." 

And she left him standing there in the twilight, a very 
human and tragic figure, with the grey ash of his vision 
between his hands. 

Such was Anne Boucicault' s birthday. Mrs. Compton, 
driving home from the scene of celebration, met her husband 
at the barrack gates and forced the reins upon him in 
order that she might give herself over entirely to invective 
and lurid description, two pastimes for which she had an 
unlimited talent. Archie Compton chuckled at her picture 
of Sigrid's dramatic and triumphant intervention, but his 
chuckle was not all that she had expected, and she caught 
herself up. 

" What a brute I am ! " she exclaimed repentantly. " I 
had forgotten. You poor old boy ! You must be feeling 
sick " 



ANNE BOUCICAULT EXPLAINS 71 

" I am." he returned grimly. " It was damnable." His 
voice was lowered for the benefit of the syce balanced on 
the back seat, but it was no less vibrant with bitterness. 
" But that's how it is out here. We you and I men 
like Tristram everybody sweat out our lives, sacrifice 
every personal wish we've got, play the game from the 
Viceroy down to the new-fledged Tommy as, heaven knows, 
the game isn't often played on this earth for what ? Well, 
we don't talk about that. We just go ahead with our 
best. And then some blundering ass some blackguard, is 
let loose among us and the whole thing is in the fire we 
might as well never have been or played the deuce to our 
hearts' content " 

She caught a glimpse of his drawn, miserable face. 

" You think things are pretty bad ? " she asked, 
gropingly. " Something will happen ? " 

" Sure." His grip tightened on the reins. " Something 
God knows what but something " 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE TWO LISTENERS 

IT was typical of Owen Meredith that, as he left the 
Boucicaults' compound behind him, he put aside his 
own grief and turned sternly to the duty that lay 
nearest him. That duty concerned Ayeshi. Possibly, 
had Ayeshi been moulded in the common clay of his race, 
Meredith might have taken his duty with less seriousness. 
though his blood would still have burnt at Boucicault's 
wanton brutality as it was, a long-considered purpose now 
took a definite form. 

It chanced that, as Meredith trudged on his way to the 
M ission, the Rajah's English dog-cart swerved round a bend 
of the dusty road, and came down upon him with the best 
speed of a rather showy high-stepper. Rasaldu drove 
himself, the knowledge of animals being the one talent 
that he appeared to have inherited from his cowherd 
ancestry, and, recognising Meredith, he drew up so smartly 
as almost to jerk his attendant from off his precarious 
perch in the rear. 

" I have just come down from the dak-bungalow," 
he explained. " I was to have taken Mademoiselle Fersen 
out with my new cob beauty, eh ? but she was out. 
Happened to have seen her ? " 

.Meredith accepted the fat brown hand extended towards 
him. 

" I left her at the Boucicaults'," he said. " But that was 
some time back. It was Miss Boucicault's birthday, you 
know." 

" No, I didn't." Rasaldu's face fell like that of an 
offended child, and Meredith hastened to add lightly 

" It was a very small affair only a handful of Miss 
Boucicault women friends and an odd male or two like 

78 



THE TWO LISTENERS 73 

myself. Miss Fersen was there as a matter of course, I 
don't think any affair in Gaya could get along without her." 

The Rajah chuckled, flattered and reassured. 

" Xo, I suppose not. A wonderful woman. Well, I 
daresay she had to go. Anything I can do for you, Mere- 
dith ? Want a new school-house or anything like that ? " 

" I want money. Rajah," Meredith returned promptly. 

" Thought so. You shall have it. Let me have the list 
and I'll head it with as much as you like " 

" Hadn't you better hear what it's for ? " Meredith 
suggested. 

Rasaldu shook his head. 

" Oh, I don't know ; that's hardly my business." 

In this case, I think. It concerns one of your own 
people, Rajah." 

Rasaldu's smile faded. He looked oddly crestfallen. 

" A protege of yours, eh ? " 

" Yes, a very brilliant young man much above his class. 
Though I've not been able to trace his parentage, I imagine 
he has good blood in his veins. Anyhow, I want to give 
him his chance, perhaps eventually send him to Calcutta 
University." 

" Convert, eh ? " 

" That may come," was the grave answer. 

Rasaldu was silent a moment, busy with the restless 
animal in the shafts. A rather supercilious smile flickered 
at the corners of his thick lips. 

>; Well, you shall have all you want," he said finally. 
" But send him to London Paris. Paris is the place. It 
opens a man's mind gives him ideas. We want that 
sort of stuff out here. Don't fuddle him with universities. 
Show him life. And there's nothing like Paris for that. 
It was there I met Mademoiselle Fersen, you know. A 
fine woman, eh ? Fairly taken Gaya by storm, I fancy." 

'"She certainly does pretty well what she likes," Mere- 
dith admitted with a wry smile. 

" I thought so. She was bound to win. At home she 
fairly walked over every one don't know why exactly. 
It wasn't only her dancing I couldn't quite understand 
it myself not enough of it or too much and it wasn't 
her beauty. She isn't in the least beautiful. . . . There 

were women in Paris I knew " He caught sight of 

Meredith's face and burst out into a good-natured laugh. 
*' Well, all that won't interest you. But you shall have 



74 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

your money. Keep clear of the wheels, my dear fellow 
the brute's got the devil in her good-bye." 

He raised his whip in salutation, and a minute later was 
a speck in a rolling cloud of dust. 

Owen Meredith trudged on patiently and interwove his 
thoughts of Ayeshi's future, and of the slow piling of stone 
upon stone which was to make a new temple in India, with 
the red thread of his own pain. 

Meantime the subject of his anxious consideration sat 
on the top step of the dak-bungalow and was ministered 
to by Mrs. Smithers. Mrs. Smithers had accepted him 
much as she would have accepted a herd of wild elephants 
if they had presented themselves in Sigrid's name. She 
brought hot water and bathed the blood from his face, 
and set food in lavish quantities at his side, all this except 
for a single exclamation, (i Lawks a-mercy ! '' without 
surprise or question or the slightest change in the expres- 
sion of her grim features. Ayeshi seemed soarr-ely aware 
of her. Nor did he touch the food. He sat with iris back 
against the wooden pillar .of the verandah, his knees 
drawn up to his chin and shivered as though in the grip 
of a violent ague. Mrs. Smithers tried to cover him with 
a rug, but he thrust her offering aside. ' 

" I am not cold," he said. 

" You're very ill, young man," Mrs. Smithers retorted. 

He turned his half-closed, suffering eyes for a moment 
to her face. 

" It is not my body " he muttered. 

Mrs. Smithers gave it up. Nevertheless, she drew up a 
chair on the other side of the steps and sat down with her 
hands folded in her lap and kept watch over him as though 
he had been a criminal given over into her keeping. 

It was thus Sigrid found them half an hour later. The 
brief Indian twilight still lingered on the open roadway, 
but in the happy wilderness which was the garden of "the 
dak bungaloW it was night, and the figures of the two 
watchers were only shadows. 

Sigrid stepped out of the white military cloak which 
covered her light dress and revealed the presence, under 
one arm, of a black-snouted, alert-eared something which 
in other days, when Aberdeens and their mongrel offspring 
were unknown, would have been taken for a baby dragon. 
Mrs. Smithers' unexpectant lap received Wickie, helplessly 
entangled in the cloak, and Sigrid knelt at Ayeshi's sida 



THE TWO LISTENERS 76 

He had tried to rise and salaam, but she forced him back 
with a resolute hand. 

" We've had enough of that sort of thing," she said 
almost angrily. " How you must hate us all! " 

He gave a long shuddering sigh like that of a child which 
has exhausted itself with crying and then was still. 

" Mem-Sahib is very good," he said softly. " But he 
had the right " 

" He had not," she flashed back fiercely. " What gives 
him the right ? " 

" If Mem-Sahib were not a stranger she would know," 
he answered in his broken voice. 

She struck her knee with her clenched hand in a storm 
of anger. 

" There is no law " she began. 

" There is a custom, Mem-Sahib," he interrupted. " I 
think many of them were sorry, but had I turned on him 
and struck him they would have flung themselves on me. 
That is the difference." 

" You are as good as he," she protested recklessly. " If 
you had a chance you would be more than he is. Major 
Tristram has told me " 

" There are barriers that Mem-Sahib would be the first 
to remember," he persisted. 

But the fire of her outraged chivalry burnt fiercer in the 
wind of his opposition. 

" You're wrong, Ayeshi. JL shouldn't. There are no 
barriers at least, none like that. Goodness knows, we're 
not born equal, but the inequality that matters isn't of 
birth or race, but of mind and soul. And you have a mind 
and soul above most. There are no barriers for you." 

He bent his head. 

" That is what Meredith Sahib has said to me. We are 
all brothers that is the message of his God to us. Some- 
how, I do not think that Meredith Sahib is wise to bring 
the message nor you, Mem-Sahib and yet we who are 
athirst in the desert " 

He seemed to meditate and to have forgotten her. He 
rose stiffly and painfully to his feet. 

" I go to seek Tristram Sahib," he muttered. 

She also had risen with an effortless slowness which 
made even of the simple movement a kind of wonder. 

" Tristram Sahib ? Is Tristram Sahib here ? " 

He pointed vaguely out into the darkness. 



7G TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" There in an hour I am to meet him with the Colonel 
Sahib's answer. He would not come himself, for he is 
hard pressed, and if he met the Colonel Sahib 

" There would be an end to his theories," she interposed 
with a little laugh. 

" And to you also he sent a message, Mem-Sahib." 

She turned to him. Mrs. Smithers, to whom the dark- 
ness was in the nature of an impropriety, had lit the high 
lamp in the room behind them, and the dim gold which 
flooded Sigrid Fersen's face seemed more the dawn of an 
expression than a reflected light. 

" Give it me ! " she said. 

His back was to the light. He looked at her for a moment, 
his face a blank, featureless shadow. 

" It is here, Mem-Sahib." From his tunic he drew out 
a little bundle wrapped in a thick silk cummerbund, arid 
gave it tenderly into her hands. 

" It was that which made me most afraid," he added. 

"That!" she said, scarcely above her breath. Sin- 
held the fragile china cup in both hands, her head bent. 
" I can't accept it," she said hurriedly. " You must tell 
him so, Ayeshi. It was his mother's gift he valued it 
he loves beautiful things I couldn't take it ' 

" Mem-Sahib " the young Hindu's voice sounded rough 
and uneven " the Dakktar Sahib goes to Bjura to-night. 
There is much terrible sickness in Bjura, and the Dakktar 
Sahib goes weary and single-handed. The cup was pre- 
cious to him most precious and that was why he sent 
it to the Mem-Sahib who loves the beautiful as he dose. 
He believed that his mother would have wished it." He 
waited and then asked, " What message shall 1 take to 
the Dakktar Sahib ? " 

" Wait you must give me time to think, Ayeshi or, 
no, why should I think ? " Her laugh sounded low and 
unsteady. " Come, you must sit there in the shadow again. 
It is not yet time for Tristram Sahib. Wait I will give 
him my message sit there 

She was gone noiselessly. Mrs. Smithers, who hovered 
gloomily about the drawing-room in search of the absconded 
Wickie, saw her go to the piano and throw it open. For 
many minutes she sat before it motionless, seeming to 
listen, then her left hand touched the keys, and almost 
inaudibly, like the stir of a newly awakened wind, there 
sounded the first notes of the Andante Appassionata. 



THE TWO LISTENERS ; 77 

Mrs. Smithers no longer fidgetted. She stood in the 
shadow of the curtained window, her old, hard-set face to 
the darkness. Only her mouth had lost something of its 
grim severity, and had become tender. She did not sec 
Ayeshi, though barely the breadth of the verandah separated 
them. She looked past him as sightlessly as he looked past 
her. Evidently he had turned to go. One foot rested on 
the lower step and his body was thrown back against the 
balustrade as though he had been arrested in the very act 
of flight. The dim light on his face revealed its look of 
wonder almost panic-stricken wonder. 

Mrs. Smithers continued to disregard him. But presently 
she turned and went across to the piano. Whatever 
momentary weakness had overcome her had gone and she 
was again her ruthless, uncompromising self. 

" Sigrid there's some one out there in the compound 
under the trees a man. Who is he ? " 

" Major Tristram the Dakktar Sahib a very poor and 
gallant gentleman who is perhaps going out to die and 
now trembles on the brink of Paradise." She broke off 
and passed joyously into the next phrase and through its 
glowing crescendo her voice sounded with a light dis- 
tinctness. " I can play too, Smithy ! And dance. I 
could dance to this and Beethoven would say I knew 
more of his soul than half the fools who gape in stuffy con- 
cert-halls. Think, Smithy, that man out there has never 
heard such music only Meyerbeer's pompous little ballet 
and after that he went and stood by the river until the 
daybreak because of me " 

Mrs. Smithers shook her head sternly. 

' ' You mustn't, Sigrid you mustn't. It's not fair 
you've always been fair. You know nothing can't ceme 
of it. You know yourself. You can't change your 
course " 

''I do know. But sometimes the wind shall blow me 
whither it listeth. Haven't I the right to that much ? " 

" Not at some one else's cost, Sigrid." 

There was no answer. Sigrid Fersen lifted her right 
hand and touched her lips with her forefinger. It was as 
though she called the very garden without to a deeper 
stillness. Her left hand passed swiftly from chord to 
chord, from major to a wistful minor, resting at last on one 
deep lingering note of suspense. 

"Hush, Smithy! Don't talk! What does anything 



78 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

matter ? Now listen ! Do yon remember the D minor 
valse do you remember that last night the grand-dukes 
and the princesses, what were they all ? was there anything 
but God and Chopin and I " 

Her fair small head was thrown back, her eyes were 
bright, but not now with gaiety. Her mouth was slightly 
open, and she was breathing deeply and quickly with the 
glory of divine movement. 

Mrs. Smithers turned away again and went back to the 
window. She was crying, her mouth stiff as though it 
could not yield, even to grief. 

The man under the trees had taken a step forward and 
now stood still again. Between them Ayeshi lay huddled 
together on the top step of the verandah, his face hidden in 
his arms. 



CHAPTER IX 

LALLOO, THE MONEY-LENDER 

IT had oome to be an accepted fact in Gaya that the old 
bungalow lying on the outskirts was haunted and 
therefore undesirable. Not that Gaya feared ghosts 
or anything else in heaven or earth. The average Anglo- 
Indian's nerve, strained by the subtle but immediate juxta- 
position of frivolity and danger which shade so imper- 
ceptibly into each other, that the border-line can be crossed 
unconscious^ and in an instant, cannot indulge in emotion- 
alism or fancies. He has to close his mind both to the 
fascination and the veiled menace of Indian life, or be lost. 
It is for that reason that he is always the last to admit the 
fascination, except in regard to the social conditions, or 
the danger, beyond the obvious ones of ill-health and 
consequent retirement on a beggarly half-pay. 

So Gaya's inhabitants locked up fear, and hid the key 
where it could not be found even by the most unbaked, 
fluttered new-comer, and the old bungalow with its ugly 
secret left them unmoved. But they never denied the 
existence of the blight which rested on the gloomy, tumbled- 
down building, and they avoided the place as unpleasant 
and depressing, and took care that innocent newly appointed 
officers and their wives, for whom so large and spacious a 
dwelling seemed eminently suited, should house elsewhere. 

It was owing to this circumstance that James Barclay 
had been able to obtain possession and a consequent but 
dubious foothold on the outskirts of Gaya's sternly fortified 
social life. The bungalow had been built in the dim ages 
before the Mutiny, and had been patched and patched till 
little was left of the original. James Barclay promptly 
renovated it from end to end, and added various bizarre 
additions of his own which, however, did not alter the 

79 



80 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

place's fundamental characteristic of mouldering gloom 
and depression. 

In the room in which he sat talking to Lalloo, the money- 
lender, everything of native origin had been rigorously 
excluded. The chairs were covered with English chintzes, 
the curtains were futurist in design and colour ; there were 
copies of European masterpieces in heavy gilded frames 
on the walls, and a new art bronze lamp suspended from 
the hand of a marble ^ Venus cast a bright, garish reflection 
on the upturned, contemplative face of its owner. 

It was curious, therefore, that, as little as he had been 
able to eradicate the gloom, as little had he been able to 
oust the indigenous element. The objects might be 
Western, but the atmosphere remained obstinately Oriental. 

Perhaps it was the irrepressible outbursts of colour-love 
betrayed by the chintzes, or perhaps Lalloo supplied the 
cause of this phenomena. He sat cross-legged on the 
carpet and stroked his grizzled beard with a dark hand, that 
seemed all the darker for the scrupulous whiteness of his 
jmggri and loose tunic. Compared with him, Barclay looked 
almost blond, almost English. Yet Lalloo also accentuated 
what was un-English in him. There were lines about the 
old usurer's mouth and nostrils which were already dimly 
suggested in Barclay's face. There was a gulf between 
them, but there was also a bridge across. 

" There is Seetul, who says he cannot pay," Lalloo 
detailed monotonously, and as though he were reading 
from an account-book. " He has owed us ten rupees 
these last six months, and still he says he cannot pay. But 
he has had many fine stuffs in his loom and his daughter's 
hands have been busy with rich embroideries on which the 
Sahibs' wives have cast longing eyes. It would be well to 
claim your due, Meester Barclay, before it is too late." 

Barclay nodded absently. 

" Good. I can leave that to you, Lalloo," he said. 

" It is well. Then Heera Singh we lent him five rupees 
a year ago when the harvest failed.- Twenty -five rupees is 
what I claimed from him two days ago, and he has nothing 
that is to say, he has some fine cattle and this year the 
Rabi has done well. Your claim would be a just one, 
Meester Barclay." 

" You'd better make it quick, then, before the beggar 
sells out. Afterwards he'll come whining with some infernal 
lie. He's had rope enough." 



LALLOO, THE MONEY-LENDER 81 

" It is well." The old man continued to stroke his beard 
for a moment in silence, watching the face under the light 
with a blank intentness which revealed nothing. " Nehal 
Pal has paid in full," he resumed at length. " His daughter 
was given in marriage to Meer Ali a week since. Meer Ali 
is a very old man, and there was some difficulty, for in 
these degenerate days the tongues of the women wag to 
some purpose but the marriage contract was very favour- 
able to Nehal Pal. And he has paid in full." Lalloo 
patted his waist-band and drew out a small jangling bag, 
which he set with an almost religious gravity at his patron's 
feet. "These and the other moneys of which I have 
already rendered account are now before you, Meester 
Barclay." 

Barclay picked up the bag and weighed it negligently in 
his lean, brown hand. 

" You've got an amazing head for figures, Lalloo," he 
commended. " And you're some business man, as our 
American friends would say. We shall want both qualities 
badly in the future. I want money as much as I can get. 
I mean to rope in all the industries of every village within 
three hundred miles and make them paying concerns. At 
present, they're just in a state of straggling, unprofitable 
hugger-mugger, out of which nobody gets anything." 

" I have done my best," Lalloo insinuated deprecatingly. 

Barclay tossed the bag on to the polished oak table beside 
him. 

" One man's best isn't enough. Nothing's of any good 
without organisation, and to organise one must have the 
power to make others do what they're told. So far we've 
got most of the grain-dealers into the net, and by the next 
harvest they'll have to sell me their grain at my own price. 
But that's a drop in the ocean. The weaving that's the 
thing. That's what's going to count. There are three 
hundred thousand weavers pound and about Gaya, swamped 
by rotten fakes from Manchester. I'm going to change all 
that. It's Manchester that's going to be swamped. One 
of these days, I shall be a power in Gaya, Lalloo." 

He said it with a mixture of arrogance, complacency, and 
appeal which elicited no more than an enigmatic " It may 
well be, Meester Barclay," from the expressionless Hindu 
Kara cross-legged on the carpet. 

Barclay got up and stood with his hands thrust into the 
pockets of his riding-breeches, his eyes roving from one to 



82 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

another of the expensive atrocities with which the room was 
crowded. 

"I've begun here," he went on, in the same tone. " I 
daresay they would have fought rae tooth and nail for 
possession of the place if they'd had the power. But they 
hadn't. Even in Gaya money spells the last word, and I 
had money. There isn't another bungalow like this in 
Gaya." 

"That also is true," Lalloo assented. He tumed his 
head for a moment, fixing an intent look on the curtained 
doorway as though it reminded him of something. " I 
know the place well. It was here in this room many years 
aso that I found the body of the great Tristram Sahib. He 
had been murdered. There was blood on the floor 
almost where Meester Barclay stands now. The carpet hides 
the stain. We tried to wash it out, but the blood had 
soaked into the wood." He made a little regretful gesture. 
" It had flowed freely, and we came many hours too late," 
he finished. He gave his account as casually, tonelessly 
as he had recited his accounts, not noting the uneasy start 
of the man in front of him, but seeming to fall into a mood 
of profound retrospection, Barclay came nearer to the 
light again. 

" Murdered ? " he echoed. " In this room by whom? " 

The sharp brown eyes lifted for a moment. 

"That is not known. One could tell, perhaps, but he 
has been long silent. The young and foolish swear he h;'s 
not spoken for a huridred years, but that is vulgar super- 
stition. I remember Vahana the Holy Man when h 
yuung and handsome and loved a beautiful wife." He 
jerked his head significantly. " It was her body I fouud 
out in the garden well yonder," he added. 

" Murdered, too ? " 

Lalloo smiled subtly. 

' ' Tristram Sahib was handsome and brave and lonely. 
It was said that he had a way with women and he was 
Sahib. No doubt she came willingly. In those days, 
Gaya was not as now. She lived with him for a year 
before the accident. There was a child, but that was 
never found." 

" And Vahana ? " 

The smile, unchanged, gained in significance. 

"He was on a great pilgrimage to Holy Benares, Meester 
Barclay." The old usurer put his hand to the neck of his 



LALLOO, THE MONEY-LENDER 83 

tunic and pulled up something which hung there by a cord. 
The thing glittered yellow in the light. " See, this is what 
I found on her body an old bracelet strange and wonder- 
ful in design, Meester Barclay. I wear it, for there is a 
saying that a murdered woman's jewels shield a man from 
the evil eye, and I, Lalloo, who believe in nothing, am 
cautious. There was a fellow to it, but that I gave to 
Vahana in remembrance of the wife he had loved. He 
thanked me and went his way some say to Kailasa, but 
there is no knowing, for since that day no man has heard 
him speak." 

Barclay, who had bent down for a moment, let the 
bracelet slip from his fingers. He turned away and went 
and stood near the spot which Lalloo had indicated, frown- 
ing down at it as though the stain were still visible or bore 
for him some deeper significance. 

" And so, because of a sordid tragedy, many years old, 
the place is boycotted by all save outsiders such as I am. 
Is that the delicate point of your story, Lalloo ? " he asked. 

" They say a spirit dwells in this room," Lalloo answered 
indirectly, " an evil spirit," he added. . 

" Or a living one. Ghosts, if there are any, are men's 
deeds which live after them. But there are no ghosts." 
He shrugged his shoulders and laughed. " Look about 
you, Lalloo. A ghost couldn't haunt this room now. He'd 
lose his bearings. It's changed since those days, eh ? " 

Lalloo looked at the marble Venus with her lamp. 

"It is indeed wonderful," he assented. 

Barclay swung on his heel and came back. He was 
suddenly neither arrogant nor pleading, but utterly and 
rather terribly sincere. 

" You don't think it wonderful," he said, softly and 
bitterly. " What you think, God knows, but at least it's 
not admiration for me that you're hiding behind your 
damned impassivity. I'm your partner a very rich 
partner. I'm Meester Barclay, that's a 11. But the youngest 
whipper-snapper with a pink and white face and a pair of 
epaulettes is Sahib." He stopped, trying to master him- 
self physically. The lean brown hands were clenched at 
his side in the effort. " Why am I not Sahib ? " he asked. 

Lalloo spread out his hands. 

" I speak to you in English. Is not ' Meester Barclay ' 
the English way ? " he asked with deference. 

Barclaj' laughed. The muscles of his handsome features 



84 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

still quivered with the gust of nervous passion which had 
swept over him, but there was a certain satisfaction in his 
laughter. 

" Well, you have always a soft answer and I under- 
stood. I am simply not Sahib. They your masters 
have not recognised me, so you do not recognise me. But 
all that is going to change, and when you see me cheek by 
jowl with the best of them you will salaam and ask the 
bidding of Barclay Sahib." He paced restlessly backwards 
and forwards in his excitement, the mincing quality of his 
accent asserting itself. " You know the law, Lalloo. A 
man is what his father was. My father was English I 
have got good English blood in my veins. I've always 
known it it would be damned awkward for some of them 
if I proved it. But, at any rate, they've got to have me. 
I'm forging a gold key to their strongest locks, and if that 

won't do, then " He broke off again, changing his 

tone to one of trenchant decision. 

" I've got to have money money enough to swamp 
qhem. I've got to have those weavers. Once get a hold 
on the throat of the industries and the rest's easy. 8 tart 
at Heerut, Lalloo. They've had an epidemic, and will be 
ready to sell their souls. You can give them easy terms ' 

Lalloo got up leisurely. 

" At Heerut no, Meester Barclay," he said. " Not 
there." 

" And why not ? " 

" The Dakktar Sahib lives in Heerut. He is a stramg 
man. He has no love for my calling." 

" Well, are you afraid of him ? " 

" No ; he drove a devil out of my son," Lalloo explained, 
without particular emotion. 

Barclay laughed irritably. 

"That means fear right enough. You think if he can 
drive out devils, he can also inflict them. I know your 
ways of argument. Well, in the name of the devil he 
exorcised, who is the fellow ? " 

"Tristram Sahib." 

" Tristram ? " 

"The son," Lalloo explained, his eyes on the spot near 
the curtain. 

James Barclay turned on his heel and went over to the 
window. For a full minute he stood there motionless and 
silent, seemingly intent on the sound of English voices 



LALLOO, THE MONEY-LENDER 85 

which drifted towards him over the darkness of the com- 
pound. When he spoke again it was with a drawling 
heaviness. 

"Tristram the son? That's a curious coincidence. 

Still, I see your point, Lalloo. You could not very well 
oppose him. Leave Heerut to me. I shall manage. 
You can go now." 

The old usurer lingered. He was watching the tall, 
stooping figure by the window, his head a little on one 
side, as though he, too, listened, but apparently to other 
sounds. Presently he slid noiselessly to the door and 
drew back the curtain. 

A woman entered. 

Lalloo greeted her with silent deference. He lifted 
his hand half-way to his forehead, looking in Barclay's 
direction, and the gesture was nicely expressive of a cour- 
teous equality. Then he was gone. 

Barclay continued to stand by the window. He had 
noticed neither Lalloo's departure nor the woman's entry. 
Evidently the English party outside on the road had just 
returned from some entertainment. He could hear a 
fragment of a laughing reference to champagne, then an 
indistinguishable murmur pitched in a graver key, and a 
woman's exclamation of contemptuous disgust. Some one 
called good-night, a whip cracked, and a light-wheeled 
vehicle rolled on its way down-hill towards the dak- 
bungalow. 

Barclay drew in his breath between his teeth like some 
one who has received a hurt, but he did not move. The 
woman came nearer to him. Her movements were quiet 
and graceful, and curiously typical of the whole of her. 
Everything about her was harmonious in a supple, bone- 
less way. The big straw hat, made garishly ornate with 
artificial poppies, flopped over the dark little face and its 
untidy, beautiful frame of straight, jet-black hair. The 
light sprig dress revealed the yielding lines of her body, 
and was in itself pretty and badly made and carelessly put 
on. She had all the charm, all the lithesome fascination 
of a young animal, but there were also lines in her face, 
in her figure, which gave warning of a less lovely maturity. 

As she came softly forward she clasped her hands, half 
in excitement, half in a childish appeal, and they were 
long-fingered, olive-tinta and gaudy with bright rings. 

"Jim!" she whispered. "Jim!" 



86 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

He started. The moody dejection passed. He swung 
round, his features blank with the very violence of con- 
tending emotions. For a moment he stared at her, whilst 
the breathless joy in her eyes faded into hesitant question- 
ing, then into fear. " Oh, Jim," she repeated helplessly. 
"Jim!" 

He strode up to her, catching her roughly by the wrist, 
shaking her less with anger than in a kind of panic. 

" Why have you come ? " he stammered. " How did 
you get here ? " 

She cowered like a dog before threatening punishment, 
and her eyes, lifted to his face, were dog-like in their 
steadfast, wistful appeal. 

" By train to Bhara and then I drove for two days, 
Jim. But no one knew me. I didn't ask any questions 
I didn't tell any one. Not a soul. I just found my way 
here. I had your letters and they described things so 
wonderfully, I felt I was coming home. Jim, how beautiful 
it all is ! Much more beautiful than I ever dreamed ! " 

Partly she was trying to propitiate him, but partly the 
exclamation was sincere. Her brown eyes were wide and 
bright as they passed over the room's treasures, resting 
at last on the culminating vulgarity of the Venus. Bar- 
clay followed her gaze, then, without a word, he released 
her, and going over to the lamp, turned down the wick. It 
sputtered feebly, throwing up decreasing flashes of light 
on to the white, stupid loveliness of the goddess, and then 
died out. Through the darkness, Barclay's voice sounded 
thick with anger. 

" Anybody might have seen us from the road," he said. 
" You must be mad, Marie, or bent on doing for my 
chances. Don't you know what I told you or did you 
just choose to forget ? Good God, don't whimper ! You're 
like a child. You smash something and then you cry 
as though you were the injured party " 

" I was so awfully lonely " she broke in, piteously. 

He was silent. She could not read his expression, but 
the quiet following on his first violence suggested a furious 
effort to regain self-control. She waited, not moving or 
speaking, and presently he took up her plea, scrutinising 
it with the level coldness of suppressed anger. 

" Lonely, you say ? Hadn't you friends enough? You 
used to make me sick with your boasts about them. There 
were the Mazzinia and the Aostas in our Calcutta days 



LALLOO, THE MONEY-LENDER 87 

thej lived with us, fed on us, borrowed from us. What's 
become of them ? You had money enough to buy the lot. 
Lonely ! " He exploded on tjie word, falling on it with a 
raging bitterness, then choked himself back to his pose of 
judicial deliberation. " It did not at all occur to you that 
I might be lonely, I suppose. It did not occur to you that 
whilst you were lolling comfortably in your rut, I was 
cutting new roads for us both through a granite opposition 
with not a soul to help me. You imagined me in a whirl 
of conviviality, no doubt feted, courted, the catch of 

Oaya " He laughed out. "You fool! " he flung at 

her, in a paroxj'sm of exasperation. 

She gasped, as though he had struck her across the face, 
but she was no longer crying. Her voice sounded flat and 
tired like a child's. 

" I was lonely," she reiterated patiently. " I had the 
Mazzinis and the Aostas. I saw them every day, and they 
were very kind. But they were not you, Jim. I wanted 
you all the time, night and day, worse and worse. I 
thought I should have died, wanting you. And I did 
imagine things. I couldn't help it. I thought how bril- 
liant and handsome you were, and I knew you'd win through 
and climb ever so high and I should be left behind. I 
couldn't bear it, Jim dear. I had to come." 

Barclay did not answer, but now his silence was no 
longer the tense, savage thing it had been. She could see 

his tall, slight figure dimly outlined against the paler dark- 
ness of the garden. Presently he turned and drew up the 
Chesterfield to the shadow's edge. 

" Come here ! " he said authoritatively. 

She came, groping blindly towards him and knelt down 

at his knees. She put her hands up, touching his face, his 

shoulders, his whole body. 

" Oh, Jim ! " she whispered huskily. " Just to feel you 

again just to know you're there near me. It's like 

slaking an awful thirst you don't know what it's been " 

"Hush!" he whispered back. She had flung aside 

her hat, and he bent and kissed her hair. A curious frag- ' 

ranee rose to meet him Eastern, sensuous, intoxicating. 

He flung his arms round, dragging her close to him, kissing 

her eyes, her lips with a ruthless desire. 

" And haven't I thirsted haven't I wanted you ? Do 

you think I haven't been lonely among these strangers 

who turn their backs on me, shrink from me as though I 



88 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

were a leper ? Hush, don't cry ! I'm not angry now. 
I'm glad. We shall have these few hours together. To- 
morrow " 

:< To-morrow ? " she interrupted fearfully. 

" To-morrow you must go back." He laid his hand on 
her lipe, stifling her in voluntary cry of pain. His own voice 
grew clearer and less passionate. " You must. We can't 
let ourselves be carried away by our feelings like this. It 
would be ridiculous to sell the whole future for the present." 

" We were happy before," she whispered. " What more 
can one be than happy ? " 

He made a little impatient movement. 

" You were happy. But I couldn't you see for your- 
self 1 I didn't belong there not among your set or the set 
I'd been brought up in poor, mean, petty folk, squabbling 
and wrangling over the degrees of their insignificance. 
Who was your father ? a rotten little clerk, sweating in a 
Government office, too poor to get an English wife. But 

my father " He broke off, and then went on rapidly. 

" I'm different, Marie. I've got good blood in my veins 
good English blood. It's restless in me. It won't let me 
rot like the others. I've got to get on. I've got to win 
through back to my own people. Don't you under- 
stand ? " 

" Yes," she said dully, " and I am afraid." 

He went on, with gathering determination : 

"So you must go back and wait. I shall pull through, 
but jou couldn't, and I couldn't help you. You'd drag me 
back. You must have patience and faith. When I've 
made my position safe here " 

"You will not want me," she interrupted gently. 
" You'll have climbed too high for me, Jim. That's why 
I am afraid." 

He laughed a little. His hand brushed the tears from 
her hot cheeks, and passed on caressingly down her arm to 
her wrist and lingered there. 

" You're tired and fanciful, Marie. Some one's been 
putting ideas into your head. You've got to trust me and 4 
help me " 

" Jim what are you doing ? " she whispered. 

" The bracelet the one I gave you you're still wearing 

" Always. Night and day. It's been Like a bit of 
you " 



LALLOO, THE MONEY-LENDER 89 



I want it back- 



She tried to wrench herself free from him. " Jim 
don't don't, dear." 

" I want it. Hush, don't make a fuss. You shall have 
it back, I promise you. Heavens what a child ! " 

She was crying now convulsively. He put his arms 
round her and pressed her closer with an impatient tender- 
ness. 

" It was all I had of you," she sobbed. " It was our luck 

a sort of link now it's gone " 

into my pocket," he retorted, good-humouredly, 
" and in a week or two it'll be back on your wrist. I'll 
put it there if I have to come all the way to Calcutta. Hush, 
for God's sake ; don't cry like that - " 

She became suddenly very quiet. Instinctively she knew 
that he was trying to listen to something beyond her 
sobbing, and she too listened, intently, with the alertness 
of a frightened animal. 

" Jim what is it ? " 

He freed himself deliberately from her arms. 

"It's down at the dak-bungalow. Some one playing. 
It's a long way off. The wind must be in the east " 

; ' The dak-bungalow ? Who lives there ? " 

" Sigrid Fersen " 

" A woman. Jim, do you know her ? " 

He got up. It was as though she no longer existed for 
him. The U minor valse came down to them on the breath 
of the night -breeze maddening and exhilarating a song 
of life at its full tide. 

" Yes I I know her," he said. 

" Jim, where are you going ? " 

He turned on her, thrusting aside her clinging hands with 
a oold violence. 

"Stay there!" he said. "Don't let any one see you. 
Stay there ! " 

He pushed past her and went down the verandah steps. 
It was as though he had thrust a dog out of his path. She 
called to him, but he did not hear her a minute later, he 
had vanished into the shadow of the trees. 



CHAPTER X 

AN ENCOUNTER 

AYESHI, with his face buried in his arms, had neither 
seen nor heard, and it was Mrs. Smithers who stepped 
challengingly into the man's path. Her old heart 
beat terrifyingly, but she held herself with a very dour and 
acrimonious determination. 

"Of all the impertinence ! " she hissed at him. "Go 
away with you, you nasty, maraudering heathen " 

But it was then that Sigrid saw him, and the D minor 
valse broke off sharply, leaving a flat and drear silence, 
as though some splendid, glowing spirit had fallen lifeless. 
She herself had risen and stood with one hand on the keys, 
the other at her side. Her mouth was still a little open, 
but no longer with her wide smile of joyous living. She 
looked tired, and rather wan. 

" Who are you ? " she asked, breathlessly. " What are 
you doing here ? " 

"I beg your pardon." Barclay bowed to her. "I 
assure you, I did not mean to interrupt your playing, but 
this this lady caught sight of me and I had to present 
myself at once or be taken for a burglar. I hope I, am 
forgiven ? " 

She shrugged her shoulder, studying him with an im- 
passivity before which his suave manner faltered and be- 
came uncertain. 

"I neither know you nor your business," she said. 
" When I have heard your explanation, it will be time to 
consider whether I can accept your apology." 

" Meantime, I accept the reproof," he retorted. "But 
we are old acquaintances at least, we have met before. 
That is the first paragraph of my excuse. We met at the 
dinner Lord Kirkdale gave in honour of your return, and 

99 



AN ENCOUNTER 91 

I was introduced to you. My name is Barclay James 
Barclay." 

"There are many thousands of people who have been 
introduced to me and whose names and faces I have for- 
gotten," she said, simply. " That does not warrant their 
walking into my drawing-room at odd hours of the night." 

His smile, uneasily ingratiating, persisted. 

" Haven't I apologised, and won't you make some allow- 
ances ? I had missed you this afternoon at Colonel Bouci- 
cault's business detained me and was bitterly disap- 
pointed. Passing your bungalow, I heard you playing I 
was mortally tempted and, relying on the fact that we 
are in India and not in stiff-necked England, I ventured 
to present myself at once." 

" You relied on the facts that I am a dancer, that you 
once paid half a guinea for a stall to see me dance, that you 
cadged for an introduction where introductions were value- 
less, and that, once a woman ventures out into publicity, 
men of a certain type consider her fair game." She spoke 
quietly enough, but there was a whiteness about her 
distended nostrils which betrayed a rising* anger. " Well, 
as you rightly say, we are not in England. The half -guinea 
stall is of no value here. My privacy is my right, and I 
beg of you to respect it." 

He held his ground. His impulse had carried him into 
an impasse from which he could not possibly retreat with 
dignity. * 

" You are like royalty, Miss Fersen," he said fluently. 
" People whom you don't know, know you. It's the penalty 
of greatness. You can't be hard on us poor mortals who 
take the sunshine when they can get it. Besides, I have 
only forestalled events. Sooner or later, I should have met 
you- " 

"I have lived in Gaya for two months," she inter- 
rupted, " and I have neither met you nor heard of you, 
Mr. Barclay." 

She closed the piano, sighing impatiently. Had she 
looked at him at that moment she might have repented 
her only half -in tended cruelty, for his insolent ease had 
become a desperate and rather pitiable humiliation. He 
had committed a blunder which he had neither the art nor 
the social adroitness to cover over, and he looked to her 
to make his escape possible decent. And she ignored him. 
Whereat what little self-possessioa he owned deserted 
4 



92 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

him, tearing him to the mad guidance of a raw and quiver- 
ing pride. 

" You know very well who and what I am, Miss Fersen," 
he stammered, " or you wouldn't behave like this. If 
I'd been one ef the others, you'd have welcomed me. 
You wouldn't have. dared treat the merest subaltern as 
you're treated me. If Rajah Rasaldu, a full-blown native, 
from whom you accept " 

She turned like a flash. 

"Will you go, Mr. Barclay?" she said, scarcely above 
her breath. 

He remained stubbornly unmoved. A minute before, 
he had been merely a tragi-comic figure, a victim of a 
midsummer night's ambition and his own intoxicated 
senses. He might, to himself at least, have pleaded many 
things in extenuation certainly a fundamental harmless- 
ness and even a rather painful humility. Now he had 
become dangerous. 

"I'll go at my own time," he said unevenly. Mrs. 
Smithers had once more intervened and he pushed her back. 
" I can afford a scandal you can't " 

It was at that moment that Tristram stalked in through 
the open rerandah. Sigrid saw him first, and laughed. 

"So it's your turn to play deus ex machind," she said 
gailj. It was as though his advent had swept away every 
vestige of her annoyance. She looked at Barclay with 
bright, malicious eyes. " You've just come in time to 
show Mr. Barclay the way out," she said. " He was unable 
to find it for himself." 

The two men stared at each other. At that moment 
either of them could have passed easily for the villain of 
the little drama, Barclay's quivering, passion-distorted 
features being balanced by the Englishman's general 
appearane, which was ragarnuffinly, not to say ruffianly. 
His white clothes had been washed since Sigrid had seen 
him last, but had not been ironed, an unfortunate omission, 
since the result was one of soiled inelegance. The stubble 
on his unusual chin had become a reddish beard, in itself 
an unlovely object, and lent his countenance a look of 
aggression and truculence. 

Barclay laughed. He was beside himself, less with 
anger than with panic before the inevitable debacle, 
and he groped round for any weapon which might deliver 
him with a semblance of dignity. 



AN ENCOUNTER 93 

"I appreciate my blunder, Miss Fersen," he jerked out. 
"I had no idea that I interrupted an an appointment. 
I can quite understand your annoyance and I apologise. 
I wish you both good-night." 

Tristram blocked his way. 

" Your name's Barclay ? " he asked quietly. 

" It is." 

" I've heard of you." 

" I daresay." The Eurasian's eyes narrowed. He 
looked into his opponent's face with a sudden curiosity. 
" I daresay we have met before, Major Tristram." 

" I don't think so." 

" Perhaps in a third person." 

" I don't understand," Tristram returned simply. 
" But I have heard of you. Some time I'd like to have -a 
little talk about various things, which concern us both 
notably about some friends of mine who have been hard 
pressed " 

" I shall be delighted to meet you any time, Major 
Tristram," Barclay retorted. " I, too, may have matters 
of interest to discuss with you." 

Tristram stood on one side. 

" Shall we go together now ? " he suggested. " Since 
we are both intruding " 

" Not you, Major Tristram," Sigrid interposed quietly. 

There was a moment's silence. The way was now open 
to Barclay, and the three implacable watchers gave him no 
choice. He tried to insinuate into his bearing, into his 
exaggerated bow, a mocking ease, a cynical suggestiveness 
which might give him even a semblance of advantage. 
But he failed, and knew it. He stumbled out, blind and 
sick with the consciousness of defeat, of a hideous, self- 
inflicted humiliation. 

Mrs. Smithers saw him to the verandah steps as a police- 
man sees a doubtful intruder off premises specially recom- 
mended to his care. She adjusted her neat wig with 
dignity and a touch of wrathful defiance. 

" In a brace of shakes, I'd have boxed his ears," she 
muttered ferociously. " Not but what my heart was 
beating about inside me like a fly in a bottle. The impudent 
blackguard ! Called himself an acquaintance ! What 
next ! We shall have the sweep dropping in for tea and 

the butcher leaving his card ' She caught herself up. 

" There, in another minute, I'd have forgotten I was a 



94 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

lady and said things. Shall I see about coffee for you, 
Sigrid ? " 

" Please, Smithy." 

Sigrid Fersen stood near the middle of the room, looking 
out on to the dark garden, her hand raised to her small 
face in the familiar attitude of half-whimsical, half-sad 
reflection. Tristram glanced at her and then hurriedly 
away. 

" I was dancing," she said suddenly, with a catch in her 
breath. "I don't think I'd ever danced like that before. 
And then he came. It was as though something vital in 
me had been snapped a bird brought down in full flight 

" Ayeshi came out and told me you 'were in difficulties," 
he said. " I was eavesdropping. I suppose'! behaved like 
a cad, too." 

She shook her head. 

" I was playing to you and dancing. I knew you 
would see me dancing." 

" Then you knew ? " 

" Ayeshi told me you were coming. I knew if I played 
you would come into the garden and listen. I wanted you 
to come. And you came." 

He tried to laugh, and the laugh failed him. 

"' I am almost afraid of you," he said. 

She considered him quaintly. 

" Smithy would say you were quite right to be afraid. 
And Smithy would be right, too. I am dangerous." 

" And I am a believer in the theory which bids us ' live 
dangerously,' " he retorted more lightly. 

' ' But with you the theory would work out as self- 
sacrifice with me it would mean the sacrifice of others." 
She drew a lounge chair out on to the verandah and sat 
down with a little sigh of relief. " How tired I am ! The 
D minor valse always tired me not my body that doesn't 
matter but the invisible spirit which makes a single step 
a divine thing. Mr. Meredith would call it the soul, if he 
could connect his speciality with anything so vulgar and 
mundane." She laughed and snuggled herself back among 
the cushions. " Anyhow, my soul has danced and my 
soul is tired," she announced contentedly". 

Tristram remained standing. He was looking down at 
her profile with a puzzled intentness. 

" Yes," he admitted, " very tired." 

" That means I'm looking ugly ? " she suggested. 



AN ENCOUNTER 95 

* " No," he answered, abruptly. 

At that moment, seated there with her back to the 
light, she looked elfish, something aerial ^nd inhuman. 
Her fair hair, smoothed down with a delicious primness 
on either side of her small head, made an aureole in which 
her face gleam01 white and transparent. Beauty and 
ugliness were terms inapplicable to her. As well have 
measured air and fire by the standards of a Venus de Milo. 
" Still, you're not well to-night/' Tristram persisted, 
obstinately. 

" Feel that, then, Dakktar Sahib ! " 

He took her outstretched hand. For a second it lay in 
his, small, cool, amazingly soft and supple, then clasped 
itself round his fingers like a steel band made living by 
electric forces, and he looked up wincing and laughing, and 
their eyes met. She was smiling at him with a childlike 
satisfaction. 

' ' You see, I am stronger than you, Dakktar Sahib ! " 
she said gaily. 

" That wouldn't be saying much to-night," he answered. 

She still held his hand, but her hold had changed its 
character. 

" I had forgotten Ayeshi told us you are ill " 

"It is nothing," he muttered. 

She became thoughtful in her silence. Wickie made a 
scrambling rush up the verandah steps and flung himself, 
with an hysterical yell of triumph, against Tristram's legs. 
By what cunning he had eluded Mrs. Smithers' methodical 
but unpractised search cannot be told but he was there, 
a wriggling, writhing, panting mass of delirious happiness. 
Tristram caught him up and hugged him. 

" And how in the name of the Creator of Mongrel Puppies 
did you get here ? " he asked. 

"I commandeered him," Sigrid Fersen answered. 

"I left him with Miss Boucicault." 

" And Colonel Boucicault threatened to knock his brains 
out, so I commandeered him." 

Tristram glanced down at her wonderingly. 

" You bearded the Colonel ? That was plucky of you. 
Anne must have been frightened, poor little soul." 

A faint, malicious smile quivered at the corner of Sigrid's 
lips. 

" A little, I think. But she had no time to interfere. 
I was nearest to the scene of action." 



96 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" I am awfully grateful. Wickie and I are old pals." 

" I know. If I deserve reward, let him stay with me. 
What will you do with small dogs out there ? " 

' ' I don't know would he stay with you ? " 

" Try him ! " 

He set Wickie on his short bandy legs and she called the 
dog by name. He came and sat in front of her, beating 
the ground with his lengthy tail, his ears flat in an ingratiat- 
ing humility. She bent and patted him. " You see ! " 

Tristram nodded. His silence became tense and painful, 
as though he laboured under a physical weakness, kept only 
at bay by a sheer effort of will. She looked at him criti- 
cally, and saw that he was trembling. 

" You are ill, Major Tristram. Sit down and rest. 
Smithy will bring us coffee it will do you good to sit 
with me here in the darkness and quiet." 

" I ought to be on my way," he answered unevenly. 

"Well, then, if not for yourself for me. I will admit 
that I am ill and that I need the Dakktar Sahib's minis- 
trations. It comforts me to have you here. It is your 
duty, therefore, to remain." 

" You are stronger than I," he answered, with an un- 
steady laugh. But he sat down opposite her, his body bent 
forward, his hands clasped between his knees. She could 
see nothing of his face, but the outline of his fine head, dis- 
torted a little by its mass of thick hair, trimmed by an 
amateur hand, lent his shadow a look of way-worn di- 
and physical disintegration. Yet it remained an indomit- 
able shadow. She remembered him as she had seen him 
once before. Since then the Quixote had had his tusslo 
with the windmill and now, bruised and broken, prepared 
himself for a fresh onslaught. 

" Why do you do it ? " she flung at him, almost angrily. 

He looked up at her, as though waking from a dream. 

" Do what ? " he asked. 

She shrugged her shoulders. 

" Oh, I know. Ayeshi has told me. You're going into 
that hell single-handed and crippled. Boucicault has 
refused to get you help. Why do you let him trample 
on you ? He is not in your service. Are you afraid of him, 
too ? " 

He met her taunt with a grave simplicity. 

" No, I am not afraid. Up till now, Colonel Boucicault 
has blocked my line of communication with the authorities. 



AN ENCOUNTER 97 

That's over. There's going to be a tussle 4o the death 
between us, and he knows it. That's why I didn't come 
myself to-night." 

" Then why need you go ? Any one would exonerate 

j r ou. Ayeshi said it might mean " She recoiled from 

her own thought. " It's almost your duty not to go," she 
exclaimed. 

"Do you want me to remain ? " he asked. 

She beat her clenched fist irritably on the ara of her 
chair. 

' No because it wouldn't be you then because you are 
a fool, Major Tristram a sublime fool whom one wouldn't 
have changed even to save him from destruction. Go by 
all means, and sacrifice yourself to your duty. FOP that 
you were born." 

He sank back in his chair, his face lifted to where the 
jungle of the neglected compound thinned before the night's 
luminous sapphire. 

" I don't believe in duty and sacrifices," he said, " but 
in happiness." 

' ' And isn't your happiness here ? " she demanded, im- 
periously ; " isn't this happiness the thing you dreamed 
of? " 

She saw his hands clench themselves. 

" Yes but a dream that can't be fulfilled a secret 
corner of fancy that isn't enough. In the end if one 
lived on it, set it before one as the end-all one W 7 ould 
sicken and starve. The dream itself would die. I've figured 
it out happiness is the consciousness of purpose " 

" What purpose can any one of us have ? " she retorted 
scornfully, " we who are ourselves purposeless creations ? " 

He waited a moment. When he answered, his voice 
sounded clear and steady, though his words were faltering, 
groping efforts of expression. 

' ; I don't know I mean rather that I can't explain. I'm 
an inarticulate sort of fellow. It seems to me ninety- 
nine days out of a hundred we don't worry as to where 
we're going or why. We do what we've got to do blindly. 
But the hundredth day is a day of reckoning. You were 
going to say just now that I might die if I went out there. 
Well, that doesn't seem to me so important. Death is the 
only visible goal we have. What matters, what is vital, 
what is happiness is that we should reach that goal splen- 
didly as splendidly as we can. Surely happiness is this, 



98 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

that in our moments of reckoning, when we have to face 
ourselves, or when we reach the goal, perhaps suddenly 
and unexpected ly, we can look back on our course with 
the knowledge that, whether punishment or reward or 
nothing awaits us, we ran straight according to our 
lights." 

" And ' running straight ' for you means plunging into 
the sickness and suffering of others ? " she asked moodily. 

She saw him throw back his tired shoulders. 

" What other ' running straight ' is there that matters ? " 
he returned, ardently. " Those poor folk out in Bjurar 
I'm the only hope they've got. Supposing I fail them ? 
No .one would blame me no one would say I hadn't run 
straight but I should have broken the only law I recog- 
nise I should have denied the only god I know. And 
more than that I'm English. When I go out there, I 
carry my colours with me. It depends on me whether 
those colours signify to these people suffering or happiness, 
and whether, in the end, they signify happiness or suffering 

to us " He paused, and then went on quietly. " And 

they must be held higher and steadier because others have 
forgotten." 

" As Colonel Boucicault has forgotten," she put in. 

" And is he happy ? " he asked quickly. She was 
silent, and he made a little gesture of apology. " I'm 
sorry I'm like all lonely men I've grown preachy and 
prosy. I've tired you " 

But she turned to him, her head high, her eyes brilliant 
with a suddenly revealed feeling. 

" Why should you apologise ? I also have my theories 
of life and death. Yes to die splendidly on the moun- 
tain top, in a palace of gold and silver, in the full tide of 
youth and strength, of one's own free-will, not knowing 
decay or suffering- to look back on a life without ugliness, 
without poverty or meanness that is the goal that is 
happiness." 

" That is your vision," he said, smiling at her wistfully. 
" But you are fire and air, and I am heavy earth." 

She got up and went to the steps of the verandah, and 
stood there with her back turned to him. 

" Oh, your vision of me, Major Tristram beware of it. 
Why do you make an idol of me ? " 

But he did not answer. 

Ayeshi came out of the shadow of the trees, leading the 



AN ENCOUNTER 99 

grotesque Arabella and his own sturdy pony. Tristram 
half rose. 

" No ! " she said imperatively. " You have made me 
tired and wretched and angry. You, a physician ! You 
have got to cure me before you go." 

" What shall I do ? " he asked humbJy. 

She was quiet a moment, her finger' to her lips. Her 
anger had gone, and she was once more the being of swift 
and joyous fancies. 

" Look the moon is showing between the trees. It has 
made a white pool at my feet, Tristram Sahib. Do you 
remember what you told me how at night-time ytou sat 
by the village fire and listened to AyeshTs stories of the 
great past ? You promised that one day I should 
listen, too. Xow I claim fulfilment. We will sit round 
the moonlight and warm our hands at it, and Ayeshi 
shall tell the story that his Sahib loves best. Shall it 
be so ? " 

" Yes," he answered. 

Both Mrs. Smithers and the soft-footed native servant, 
whom she now marshalled in with a forbidding air of dis- 
trust, were waved imperiously aside. 

" No coffee and Smithy are civilised and we are miles 
from civilisation. We are on the borders of the jungle. 
If I listened, I should hear the howl of the jackals so I 
shan't listen, for I detest jackals. There are monkeys 
overhead peeping at us and chattering soft insults and 
birds pluming themselves for sleep. The moonlight will 
be on our faces, and it will be like the firelight. And the 
river shall make the music to Aye*shi's story." 

She slipped down on to the stone floor and. sat there, 
cross-legged, her chin cupped in her hand. The circle of 
pale silver reflected itself back on to her earnest face and 
painted faint, mocking shadows at the corners of her com- 
posed lips. Ayeshi crouched dreamingly on the lower step 
of the verandah. On the other side of the little circle, 
Tristram sat with Wickie drowsing at his feet, his hands 
outstretched as though, to please her fancy, he warmed 
them at the firelight. Once, as Ayeshi told his story, he 
looked across at her and his face was haunted with weariness 
and suffering and famished desire. 

Thus Ayeshi told of the Rani Kurnavati and her Bracelet 
Brother. 



100 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

The moonlight faded. With Ayeshi's last words a chill 
darkness crept over them, hiding them from one another 
and silencing them. It was as though they had indeed 
warmed themselves at a fire which had gone out, leaving 
them to the grey ash of their dreams. 

Silently Ayeshi had risen and untethered the horses and 
led them towards the gates of the compound. But Tris- 
tram lingered, standing on the steps of the verandah, his 
face turned from the woman who looked down at him. 

She laid her hands on his shoulders. 

" And you who go out very gallantly, perhaps to meet 
the end which you fear so little have you nothing to ask 
lirst of life, nothing you desire, no fulfilment of mad dreams 
dreamed by the river and by your fireside nothing that I 
might not grant ? " 

He made no answer. She felt him tremble under her 
hands. Her laugh was siibdued, pityingly triumphant. 

" Oh, Tristram Sahib, do you think I don't know do 
you think I haven't read your heart ? " she said. 

And bent and kissed him. 



CHAPTER XI 

INFERNO 

HE pitched his tent outside the village in a paradise 
of brilliantly painted flowers and high grass, whose 
bright emerald shone luminously where the dyirfg 
sun touched it. A pool in the shadow of the trees wore 
a score of lotus-flowers on its still breast, and the ghosts 
of yellow blossoms from the overhanging mango shimmered 
tremulously beneath among the tangled undergrowth. 

But there was no living thing. The sand at the water's 
edge was unbroken by the familiar pugs, and the trees and 
the long grasses were empty and silent. Death and over- 
abundant sensuous life lay side by side. The very soil, 
rich and moist, gave out an aroma of sickly sweetness 
tainted with corruption. 

The native bearers shook their heads and crouched down 
near their sleeping quarters, awaiting the loathsome, 
invisible thing with the fatality of their race. 

But Tristram shouldered his case of medicaments and 
sought the road leading to the village. 

The road was ankle deep in a fine powdery dust, which 
rose at each step and hung in the dead air long after he had 
passed. There were treacherous ruts which the dust 
covered, zig-zagging through what had been slimy marsh- 
land and was now a crumbling, sun-baked bed of miasma. 
Here, too, the stillness was absolute. The village roofs 
rose out of the flatness like irregular ant-heaps, deserted 
by their once restless w r orkers. The night which came 
striding over the plain was a stifling mantle, choking out 
the last breath of life under its smothering folds of dark- 
ness. The quiet itself was eerie, unnatural, the terrible 
quiet of a suffering which has passed protest. 

Then at last there came a sound a whimpering, in- 

101 



102 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

human cry and the man stood still, peering through the 
darkness. A form lay by the roadside and held out thin 
arms of appeal towards him. 

" Siva ! Siva ! Have mercy ! " 

He came nearer and knelt down. Once it had been a 
woman, but the mysterious spectre which had laid hold of 
Bjura had laid hold of her and twisted her out of human 
semblance. A child lay under her side, round-limbed, 
smooth- cheeked, as sweet as the lotus-flower growing out 
of the poisoned waters of the pool. The bloated, shapeless 
horror slobbered and whispered over it. 

" Siva my little son have mercy ! " 

Perhaps some knowledge of another, gentler faith had 
reached her that she appealed for mercy to a power which 
knew none. Tristram bent over her and drew the child 
away from her clawing, swollen hands. 

" I am not Siva. I am the Dakktar Sahib come to help 
you. Do not be afraid ! " V^ 

" Have mercy, Sahib ! " She lay on her back staring 
up at him through the gathering gloom with terrible eyes. 
" Have mercy ! " 

" Give me your child. I will take care of it. It shall 
come to no harm I promise you. Trust me ! " 

She gaped at him with the chill non-comprehension of 
gathering insensibility. Only the piteous appeal hung 
perpetually on her lips like a maddening refrain. He took 
the child and freed it from its filthy rags, and gave it to 
Ayeshi standing near him, impassive and watchful. 

" Take it back to the camp and do the best you can," 
he oidered. 

" And you, Sahib ? " 

"I shall go on presently." 

He went back to the woman and knelt down beside her, 
taking the terrible head upon his knee, and forcing a seda- 
tive between her lips. A nauseating odour of disease rose 
up to him, but it did not nauseate him. He knelt there and 
waited for the first sign of relief. And presently the 
laboured, agonised breathing softenrd ; she half turned, 
and her palsied, distorted hand fumbled over his coat, 
groping its way down the sleeve to his wrist. She took 
his hand and pressed it against her burning cheek, against 
her lips. And he bore with her, holding her closer as she 
neared the brink, whispering to her in her own tongue, a 
medley of all the words of comfort that he knew. And all 



INFERNO 103 

at once she sighed deeply, and was quiet, with the quietness 
which was more than sleep. 

He got up and straightened out her poor body and 
covered her with her rags, and went on towards the village. 

It was night now. A smouldering fire from behind the 
first hut threw up a sullen glow against which the low, 
ramshackle building stood out spectrely. Tristram passed 
it, and a gust of foetid wind goaded the flames to a sudden 
brilliance, so that he saw upon what it was they fed them- 
selves. A gaunt, naked figure crouched near the hideous 
embers, and, turning as though to see whence the wind came, 
saw the Englishman, and leapt up, wild-eyed, and fled, 
shrieking, into the black fastness of the village. 

Now the silence was gone, and in its place there were 
whisperings and the pattering of naked feet. A woman's 
scream came from afar off. Tristram stumbled over a 
body which neither moved nor cried out. He stood still, 
knowing that he was no longer alone. The eye of the 
electric torch which he carried flashed through the pitch 
darkness and rested upon distorted faces, turned to him in 
an agony of dread. And behind them, through the yellow 
haze, he caught a glimpse of bodies heaped together in the 
gutter, of cowering figures, faces hidden against the mud 
walls, of gaping doors, blacker than the pervading gloom, 
and threatening a nameless horror. He himself stood out 
in the dim light, tall and white and spectral. He moved, 
and the faces bowed before him like the heads of corn in 
the wind, and a voice went up wailing, piteous : 

" Oh, Siva, it is the end the end " 

The man whom he had seen crouching by the fire leapt 
suddenly out at him, and he felt the cold breath of steel 
against his cheek. He warded off the blow, and the mad- 
man came on again and again, and each time he defended 
himself patiently and without aggression. The circle of 
faces closed in. His light was out, but he could feel how 
the air about him grew hot and stifling. They waited 
stupidly, hungrily, with a frenzied lust of death. If he 
fell though they believed him God still it would be the 
end. 

Even then he did not strike out. The last time the 
delirious fanatic stumbled and went crashing to the ground. 
Tristram bent over him, turning his light on to the foam- 
flecked old face. 

" He'll come round all right," he said calmly. " But 



104 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

we've got to get him shut up somewhere before he does 
damage. Help me, some of you." 

His voice sounded loud and clear amidst their low, 
formless whisperings, but they did not move, and he picked 
the old man up as though he had been a child. " Make 
way there ! " he 'commanded. 

They let him pass, but on the threshold of the hut he 
came to a halt, arrested by a stench which was like a blow, 
staggering his senses. With his free hand, he sent the 
light darting about the corners of the hut, and then turned 
and came quickly out. There was nothing to be done. 
Death, most hideous, had leered at him in triumph from a 
dozen frozen distortions of the human body. 

For one moment, as he stood there, choking down his 
physical sickness, he may have known the agony of help- 
lessness and isolation. But only for a moment, lie 
looked round, noting the gradual relaxation of the fear- 
drawn faces about him. 

"It's a pretty bad go," he said cheerfully, "and what 
your headman was doing not to let us know before I can t 
think. However, we'll make the best of it. Two of 3*011 
go and pile up that fire I saw as I came in. And I want at 
least five who aren't stiff with funk to carry these poor 
devils out. There's not got to be a body left in this villas 
by daybreak. We'll get the rest out into the air where they 
can breathe, and I'll soak you and the place in carbolic." 
They still hesitated, and deliberately he turned the light oh 
to his own face. 

" Bless 3*ou, I'm not Siva. I'm the Dakktar Sahib 
sent by the great English Raj to put you all straight. 
But, by the Lord, if you don't do what I tell you in a brace 
of shakes, Siva will be a joke by comparison." 

The panic broke. The old headman crept out and 
cringed before him, offering excuses. Tristram waved 
him on one side. 

'' Get on with it ! " he said, between his teeth. 

He went from hut to hut, directing, ordering, disin- 
fecting, patient and imperturbable, infinitely gentle. And 
all night soft-footed processions with their grim burdens 
made their way out to the monstrous funeral pyre whieh 
grew higher and higher. All that night and ail through 
the burning, blinding day to another night, and beyond 
that again, Tristram drove Death back step by step 
from his mauled and helpless victims, bringing peare into 



INFERNO 105 

a hell of suffering. Three nights and three days. And 
on the fourth night he reeled back to the encampment 
beneath the trees and dropped down with his face in the 
long grass, and lay there inert as death itself. 

And for three days and nights again Ayeshi sat beside 
him, tending him and listening to the muttered reiteration 
of a woman's name. 



CHAPTER XII 

IN WHICH FORTUNE PLEASES TO JEST 

THE Rajah Rasaldu was in his element. By sheer 
force of merit, he occupied the stage to the almost 
complete exclusion of every other player. Gaya 
hung on his movements, gasped as much as Gaya ever 
gasped over the reckless twists and turns of his wonder- 
ful ponies, and applauded the grace and apparent ease with 
which he broke the defence and sent the ball spinning 
between the posts. For, strange to relate, Rasaldu could 
play polo. Flabby and unheroic as he was on all other 
occasions, once in the saddle, he developed into an iron- 
wristed, cool-headed strategist. What was more, he 
played for his side and not for himself. Men who went 
into the game disparaging his fatuous conceit and equally 
fatuous humility, loved him after the first ten minutes of 
brilliant, ynselfish play, and the glow of affection usually 
lasted for twenty-four hours after he had won for his side. 
Then they tolerated him again until the next challenge came 
along. 

Rasaldu revelled like a child in Gaya's good graces. 
There was something almost winning in his wide smile 
of pleasure, as after the first chukka he came over to the 
select group under the awning and received feminine 
Gaya's congratulations. Had he not played such a daring 
game he would have cut rather a comic figure. His 
riding-clothes, taken in juxtaposition with his dark chubby 
face, were wonderfully and terribly English, and his brown 
boots, very new and very brown, shone almost too beauti- 
fully. Between him and the turbaned soldiery crowded 
against the ropes there was a gulf of false Europeanism of 
which the latter seemed curiously conscious. They alone 
had not applauded him in his bold assault on the enemy, 

106 



IX WHICH FORTUNE PLEASES TO JEST 107 

and they stared at him now with an expressionlessness 
which, translated, equalled distrust and contempt. 

Meantime, Rasaldu chatted with the volubility of success 
and self-confidence. He chose to address himself chiefly 
to Mary Compton, but from time to time his moist brown 
eyes shot an eager glance at Sigrid Fersen, seeking her 
smile, a meed of well-earned admiration. He was a little 
afraid of her. She was not in the least beautiful, and she 
undoubtedly owed her position in Gaya to his generous 
patronage, facts which of themselves should have sustained 
him in her presence. But the quiet, imperious self- 
belief with which she had silenced alike criticism and op- 
position and compelled rigid Gaya to accept her and her 
standards, shook Rasaldu's self-complacency. It was for 
that very reason, and also because Gaya had mysteriously 
collapsed before her, that Rasaldu hovered about her with 
the helpless and protesting infatuation of a moth for a 
naked light. 

And now to-day there was added to this emotion the heat 
and intoxication of his own prowess, and the consciousness 
that, if she was not beautiful, she possessed something 
much more vital than beauty the mysterious force of 
temperament which through all time has made plain women 
more dangerous, more powerful in the destiny of nations 
than women endowed with all physical perfection. Rasaldu 
had no talent for analysing temperaments, but he could 
analyse certain obvious factors in her charm the pale 
gold hair, the perfect skin, unprotected by powder, the 
svelte, tiger-like grace and strength of her reposing body. 
Above all, he could analyse clothes. Gaya's women -folk, 
none too well blessed with money, lived in London's last 
year's creations and the clumsy imitations of the native 
tailors. But this simple white dress of some clinging, 
shimmering material, unknown to Gaya, and this simple 
straw hat almost unadorned, came from Paris. Rasaldu, 
who knew his Paris, knew that much. And, as a man 
worships a token from his native soil, so he worshipped 
Sigrid Fersen. 

And presently he ventured to address her directly. 

" Now you have seen what is best in India ! " he said. 

" The Rajah Rasaldu playing polo ? " she asked, 
smilingly. 

" You are unkind, Mademoiselle," he answered, with the 
hurt sensitiveness of a snubbed child. 



108 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" I did not mean to be unkind. There are so many 
wonderful things in India, Rajah, that I hesitated a 
moment to endorse your opinion. Still yes, it was a 
tine sight. You should always play polo, Rajah. It 
suits you better than feting prima Ballerinas in London 
restaurants." 

He looked at her and saw that she was serious, and her 
seriousness mitigated the dubiousness of her compliment. 
He would have preferred it in the reversed sense, but he 
had tq take what was offered him. 

" I was not really alluding to myself at all," he said, 
naivety, " but to the Game. The game's the thing." 

" Yes and the man who plays it," she answered, 
was smiling faintly, and he indulged ^n a flattered self- 
consciousness until he realised that the smile was a reminis- 
cent one, and that she was looking through him to some 
invisible picture of her thoughts. Whereupon, Rasa Id ii 
hastily reverted to Mrs. Compton, whom also he feared, 
but in a lesser degree. Her tongue was sharp, but at lea.>t 
she did not attract him, and consequently her powers of 
offence were of a less painful order. 

Sigrid Fersen did not notice his dejection. She was 
looking at Meredith, who at that moment had entered the 
awning. He still wore his clerical clothes, having come 
straight from the little chapel, where every afternoon he 
held his service. It was rare that more than one ]> 
should represent the congregation. Sometimes he mai 
to collect a few convert school-children, but always Anne 
Bo\icicault was there, devout and trembling, her bru\vn 
eyes following his every movement with the reverend 
passionate believer in the initiated and anointed j 
'1 hat hour in the day was very dear to Owen Meredith. He- 
believed that it was a religious ecstasy which flooded him 
as he listened to her low voice give the responses or at 
least a pure joy in their fellowship in the one faith. He 
had not realised how lifeless and empty his own pr;>\ers 
could be without the inspiration of her presence. Now a 
kind of fear oppressed him a fear of himself, a doubt in 
his own spiritual integrity. For this afternoon, she hud 
failed him and he had failed himself. He had held the 
M. rvice, according to the law which he had made for him- 
self, sparing no detail, but his heart had been dead. Now, 
as he saw her, it started to life again, to the knowledge of 
nain. She sat beside Colonel Boucicault, and there was 



IN WHICH FORTUNE PLEASES TO JEST 109 

that in her attitude which reminded Meredith of a frightened 
animal cowering under the threat of the lash. All the 
charm of youth had been twisted out of her by some in- 
visible, iron-handed suffering. And without that charm, 
she Avas a drab, colourless little soul, almost ugly. But 
Meredith did not see that she was ugly, only that she was 
ill and unhappy. He thought he understood. As he 
came and sat beside her, she shot a quick, frightened glance 
at him. 

V Father did not wish me to come," she said, in a 
hurried whisper. " He was fearfully angry about some 
letter " 

More she could not say. And even that much would 
have been dangerous, had not the man beside her been sunk 
in a sullen, inattentive brooding. She dared say nothing of 
the appalling scene which had followed on the*receipt of 
that ominous official document, and which had left them 
stupefied and bruised and sick. In the final phase, Bouci- 
cault had forbidden her chapel attendance, not because he 
disapproved, or cared, but because he knew that she 
wanted to escape him. And all the afternoon he kept at 
her side, taking an ugly delight in her wincing, broken 
subservience, and in the knowledge that he held her 
with him in his self -created atmosphere of fear and 
hatred. 

But Meredith believed he knew more of her pallor than 
she even hinted at. 

'.' I met Ayeshi on the way here," he said. " rfe gave me 
the news. Tristram is on his way back." 

" Yes ? " she queried, dully. 

" He has been very ill. Ayeshi has come on ahead to 
prepare quarters for him." 

She was looking down at her hands. He could see how 
she fought to control their trembling. 

"If only we could have put him up but we can't 
father wouldn't oh, it is terrible to be so helpless." 

' I told Ayeshi to bring him to my bungalow. I will let 
you know how he is and perhaps, later on, you could help. 
I know what a fine little nurse you are " 

" You are very, very good, Owen " 

" I would be glad to do anything for him," he answered, 
without significance. Then chancing to look up, he found 
that Sigrid Fersen's eyes were fixed on him, and guessed 
that she had heard, or had wanted to hear badlv. For an 



110 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

instant, on behalf of Anne, he hated her again, and the 
next he warmed towards her. She met his half-resentful 
stare as frankly. 

"I am so thankful he is safe," she said. 

Mrs. Compton thereupon chimed in. 

" If anything happened to Major Tristram, I should die 
of a broken heart/' she said, " even if Archie divorced 
me for it." 

She paid no attention to the laugh in which even Anne 
joined timidly She was looking at Colonel Boucicault, wfco, 
had shifted his position like a sleeper unpleasantly disturbed, 
but the remark which seemed on the edge of her compressed 
lips was not destined to be, uttered. 

At that moment a bell announced the next chukka ; 
a stir passed round the enclosure and Mrs. Compton, who, 
in spirit, played a magnificent game for Gaya, forgot 
Boucicault and Tristram in her stern concentration on 
the field. 

Rasaldu braced himself and turned with a smile to Sigrid. 
He felt more confident. In a minute she would be forced 
to look at him, to admire him, to acknowledge that he also 
' played the game.' ' 

" Wish me luck ! " he begged cheerily. 

" Return victorious ! " she returned, in mock heroics. 
" For the victors, Mrs. Compton and I have prepared a 
mighty feast in the gardens of the dak-bungalow, and the 
vanquished shall sit afar off and partake only of the crumbs 
of our graciousness. Be not among the vanquished, O 
Rajah ! " 

" To win the place of honour, I will make a goal every 
five minutes, or perish," he boasted elatedly. 

He swung himself on to the back of the pony which his 
groom held ready for him, and with a flourish trotted to 
his place on the field. 

Boucicault awoke then completely from his black brooding. 
He bent forward, staring straight into Sigrid Fersen's face, 
his clenched teeth shown in a smile that had in its mirthless, 
contained fury the elements of insanity. 

"You are a very great friend of Rajah Rasaldu, Miss 
Fersen," he said. 

She looked at him steadily, measuring the quality ol 
the challenge which he had thrown down. 

" Does friendship follow on acquaintance ? " she ques- 
tioned back. " In that case, you and I should be friends, 



IN WHICH FORTUNE PLEASES TO JEST 111 

Colonel Boucicault, for I have met you more often than the 
Rajah." 

" Then he has marked his joy in your acquaintanceship 
with remarkable generosity," he retorted. 

" Is generosity your translation for hospitality, Colonel 
Boucicault ? " 

" The Rajah's hospitality is well known. He gives 
liberally. He expects a return. And he is impression- 
able. There is such a thing as love at first sight, Miss 
Fersen." 

He was watching her with a hungry anticipation, but she 
neither winced nor turned from him. Her calm gaze met 
his, and there was no change in its rather sleepy placidity. 
But the enigmatic smile which he remembered quivered 
at the corners of her mouth. 

' ' And there is also such a thing as contempt at first sight," 
she remarked casually, " and that is much what I felt for 
you, Colonel Boucicault." 

" You are an outspoken enemy," he answered, with a 
quick drawing in of his breath. She looked down for an 
instant and saw that his big, brutal-looking hands 
shook. 

" You have remarked on my outspokenness before." 

" Yes, and I even admire it. But my admiration, Miss 
Fersen, cannot influence my sense of duty. I am chief in 
command in Gay a. The social as well as the military 
authority rests in me. And where I see that a certain 
individual is lessening our prestige, corrupting our morals, 
or even upsetting the routine of our social life, then I have 
the power to expel that individual to make Gaya and 
India impossible " 

" If, to speak clearly, you refer to me, Colonel Bouci- 
cault," she interrupted, " then perhaps I shall have 
the pleasure of travelling in the same boat with you to 
England." 

His bloodshot eyes remained blank and stupid-looking 
for an instant, then lit up with an insensate fury of under- " 
standing. He stumbled to his feet. 

" You you ! " he muttered. She saw his clenched 

fists, and knew that, for all his position and the crowd of 
witnesses, he had come within an ace of striking her. She 
looked up at him over her shoulder and laughed. 

" Keep that sort of thing for your family, Colonel 
Boucicault," she advised lightly. 



112 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Boucicault turned and pushed through the knot of s]<- 
tors behind him. He made his way across the paddock 
where the pnies were being rubbed down, and out on to t lie 
high-road. His orderly, seeing him, ran after him, and he 
turned on the man with a curse. 

" Take the buggy back to the stables. I shall walk.'' 

" And the Mem-Sahib ? " 

" The Mem-Sahib can walk, too,", he answered, grinning. 

The man saluted, his face hard-set, his eyes meeting 
Boucicault's with military steadfastness. But for an 
instant the muscles about his mouth had quivered, betray- 
ing that there was that beneath the surface which even his 
native stoicism could not wholly master. And Bouci- 
cault saw and understood. 

He strode on down the centre of the dusty, sun-baked 
road. He had drunk heavily that day, but there was more 
than drink fomenting in his inflamed brain. There was 
that letter with its bold, humbugging politeness after so 
many years of service an inquiry certain charges what 
charges ? by whom brought ? He muttered aloud, dwelling 
on a name with a sneering hatred. Well they should 
inquire he could answer the lot. But then there was 
Anne cowering before him why had God cursed him with 

a cowardly girl ? and that man There had been 

a time when, as a mere captain, his regiment would have 
followed him through the gates of hell and now now 
if he went into action to-morrow what then ? He saw the 
soldier's fae again and re-read its significance. Strong 
men made enemies, and he had always had enemies, but he 
had also had friends in the past. They had gone. The 
men who had believed in him adored him gone, Mr 
felt himself haunted by spectres of what was and what had 
been. They came out of the black abyss of his soul, whirled 
up by ugly, incoherent passions regret and remorse, self- 
loathing and self-pity twisted out of recognition and 
melted down to one vast, corroding hatred. Every other 
emotion came too late. Only hatred remained to him 
the last link between him and his fellow-creatures 
that and the power to hurt, to inflict suffering as he 
suffered. 

Thus carried forward and half blinded by the glare which 
emanated more from his brain than from the blazing road- 
way, he left Gaya behind him. He came to a bend in the 
roadwaj' where a thin belt of trees curved down towards the 



IX WHICH FORTUNE PLEASES TO JEST 113 

plain, and there stood still, arrested by an unclear recogni- 
tion. At first he scarcely knew what had attracted his 
attention ; then little by little the red haze cleared, and 
something within him started awake, some dormant desire 
as yet unnameable. 

Wickie lay on the fringe of shadow, his black snout 
between his paws, his ears pricked, his brown eyes, showing 
the whites, expressive of alert curiosity. A piece of broken 
cord attached to his collar testified dumbly to a determined 
and skilful evasion of Mrs. Smithers* coercive methods of 
adoption. 

For a moment or two the man and the would-be Aber- 
deen considered each other. Probably in a spirit of good- 
natured triumph in his own prowess, Wickie had greeted 
Bqucicault's appearance by a tattoo executed by his tail 
on the dusty road, and his eyes had twinkled an invitation 
to participate in the joke. Now he lay motionless, watch- 
ful, distrustful. 

Boucicault called him. He did not know why he called 
him nor as yet what he wanted with the dog. The tumult 
within his brain had died down. He had become calm 
and deliberate. The letter, the menacing future, the 
jumbled vision of failure which had been vouchsafed him 
in Anne's cringing body and in the eyes of his orderly, 
had given place .to a sense of purpose, controlled, extra- 
ordinarily calculated, but as yet veiled even to himself. 
He called the dog again, and showed no signs of impatience 
when Wickie remained unresponsive. Underneath his own 
calm he felt the stirring of a curious pleasure, of a fierce, 
tnirsty joy which must be gratified only with an Epicurean 
restraint. And for that he held it back, curbing it, spurring 
it to the limit of his control, tasting its anguished appeal 
for freedom with a cruel delight in his own mortification. 
Then, without hurry, without show of passion, he came 
forward, and, catching hold of the trailing rope, dragged 
Wickie to his feet. The dog struggled and growled 
ominously, and Boucicault smiled, showing his set teeth. 
There was a broken stick of bamboo lying at the roadside, 
and he picked it up and tested its suppleness leisurely 
against his boot. The animal snapped at him, recognising 
the enemy, and perhaps the impending danger; but Bouci- 
cault continued calmly resolved. He was like a morphia- 
maniac who, with the passionately desired drug in his hand, 
prolongs the delicious agony of desire. He tied the end 



114 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

of the cord round the stem of a young palm and stood 
back a moment looking down at his captive. Wickie 
sprang at him, and then, suddenly, terribly, he struck with 
his improvised weapon, bringing it down with, a sickening 
thud on the animal's long back. The scream that answered 
him was half human. Boucicault drew in his breath. 
Like lava under a thin crust of restraining earth, his 
murderous hatred welled up in him, choking him. This 
cringing brute, its brown eyes turned on him in dumb horror 
was Anne, Anne who always cringed, always truckled 
to him, whom he had so often wanted to strike down. 
And then Anne vanished from the whirling circles of his 
thoughts, and it was Tristram and that pale-haired woman 
these two who, in their different ways, had thwarted 
and defied him, brought him face to face with himself. 
It was his wife, the officers of the regiment, the men all 
with that smomldering, unspoken loathing in their eyes. 
And he struck like a madman, blow after blow, slaking 
his thirst for vengeance, making with each stroke a fresh 
breach in the wall behind which men imprison their in- 
famous insanities. And sometimes the dog whined and 
sometimes, like a human being, set its teeth in stoic forti- 
tude, and sometimes, as the pliant stick fell across its body, 
screamed uncontrollably. 

It was one such scream that Tristram heard as he rode 
up from the plain towards Gaj^a. He hung in the saddle 
like a man whose backbone has been snapped, and the 
reins trailed from Arabella's weary neck. It was fortunate 
that the road was familiar to her, for Tristram neither 
knew his destination nor cared about it. Some one had 
helped him into the saddle, and there he had remained 
instinctively ; but his mind was empty of all purpose, even 
of knowledge of himself. The scream roused him a little, 
but only for a second. There were so many strange sounds 
and scenes in his brain that he trusted none of them. It 
was only when Arabella jerked to a standstill and stood 
trembling with pricked ears, that he began to believe in 
the substantiality of what was before him. Even then 
he sat hunched together in the saddle, gaping stupidly. 
He had begun to realise, but thepe seemed to be a hiatus 
in his mind a gulf between thought and action which he 
could not cross. Then Wickie screamed > again, and he 
rolled off Arabella's back and stood there rocking like a 
drunken man. 



IN WHICH FORTUNE PLEASES TO JEST 115 

" Colonel Boucicault ! " His own voice sounded like 
a shout in his own ears, though in reality it was little more 
than a whisper, but it reached Boucicault, who turned 
round. Tristram knew then that what he saw was not a 
distortion of his fancy. " Colonel Boucicault ! " he re- 
peated heavily. He found nothing more to say. His 
inability to think coherently had become an acute suffering. 
He saw Wickie make a desperate effort to reach him, and 
the sight roused him to another effort. " Let my dog 
go.! " he muttered. 

Boucicault passed his hand over his forehead and laughed. 

" You've just come back in time, Major Tristram," he 
said. " If you really lay claim to this cur, you can stay 
here and see it thrashed within an inch of its life, A 

dangerous brute ! " He kicked it, yelping, back against 

the tree. He had made an excuse and was ashamed of it. 
It spoilt his pleasure in his own untrammelled, inexcusable 
cruelty. 

Tristram reeled forward, intercepting himself between 
Wickie and his assailant in time to receive a blow across 
the arm. The sting of it was like a tonic, driving the blood 
faster to his brain. ^ 

" You've no right let my dog go ! " 

" Your dog my dear Major ! Stand out of the way. 
I am master in G&ya,. If I may offer advice, I should 
suggest a bath and a change of clothes. You look if I 
may say so not quite worthy of your position. I doubt 
if even your admirers would care to recognise you." 

" It wquld take more than a bath and a change to put me 
right," Tristram managed to return, and then, with the 
dull obstinacy of a sick man : " Let Wickie go ! " 

Bowcicault's momentary self-restraint broke down. He 
lashed out savagely : 

" Take it yourself then, you sneaking cur ! " 

Tristram flung up his arm. instinctively, for his sight 
failed him, he warded off the blows which rained about 
him, but no more than that. His mind was working now, 
very simply, in the two fundamentals of its make-up 
two vast forces fighting for supremacy, the one long 
dormant, suppressed, scarcely recognised, at the throat of 
his soul his faith. So long as the blows fell on him, the 
latter remained triumphant. He shielded Wickie that 
was what he had meant to do. He felt as yet no animosity 
towards the man whose discoloured face seemed to fill his 



116 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

vision. He felt very little pain only a queer, alarming 
tightening of his muscles. Vague fragments of memory 
came to him his passionate love of all things living even 
to this man, his simple conception of duty of life itself. 
They upheld him ; they kept the vital part of him quiet 
and peaceful in the face of a gathering force of sheer 
physical revolt. His smarting body cried out for vengeance, 
but it had no power to move him. He stood there, taking 
the punishment patiently, almost listlessly. 

Boucicault drew back from him a moment. He was 
breathing noisily between his teeth. In him the funda- 
mentals had gone to pieces, and he was being carried for- 
ward on a flood-tide of ungoverned, monstrous passions. 
His mind, in the midst of its disruption, reasoned with 
the swiftness of insanity. This hulking, stupid giant who 
had set out to ruin him who bore insult and pain with 
less spirit than his dog he could be ruined, too. An 
inquiry ? Good let there be one a court-martial 
cashiered, both of them. But first this block had to be 
roused. 

Possibly he was mad, but he had a madman's instinct 
and deep knowledge of the secret madness in others. He 
stepped suddenly on one side. The end of his stick was 
sharp and jagged. With the steel-wristed strength prac- 
tised on many ~a day's pig-sticking, he lunged forward, 
driving the spike straight into Wickie's body. 

Tristram had seen too late. He heard the yelp, broken 
and ending piteously in a child's whimper. Then it Mas 
done. Something in him snapped. Mind and bod}', 
instinct and reason leapt together. He struck out with 
'all the terrible strength of his great shoulders, with all the 
force of his outraged love of life, with all his pity struck 
to kill. 

It grew very quiet. He had been battling in the midst 
of a titanic natural eruption, and now suddenly the violently 
aroused elements had dropped exhausted, leaving him 
standing in the midst of ruin. The tide which had flowed 
through his veins receded, and he became oddly tired and 
weak and helpless. The old blindness was creeping over 
him. Yet some things he saw in a kind of vague bij_ r 
He did not bend down, but the man lying stretched in the 
dust seemed quite near to him an austere, sinister shadow 
floating on a grey mist which rose higher close to his 
face. 



IN WHICH FORTUNE PLEASES TO JEST 117 

A faint sound reached him a dull, soft thudding. He 
found himself on his knees, muttering incoherently. 

Wickie lay full length, his short, crooked paws stretched 
out, seeking relief . There was blood on his brindle side. 
One brown eye looked out of its corner, hah* puzzled, hah* 
reassuring, a little glint of the old solemn humour showing 
through, as though the joke at Mrs. Smithers' expense 
still lingered in the fading brain. The tail beat the dust 
softly, and into that feeble movement there was compressed 
a love and understanding, almost a pity which defied death 
and rose above all language. 

Tristram took the head on his arm. He saw that his 
hand was wet and knew that he was crying. Wickie turned 
a little, licking his hand feebly. 

" Old fellow dear old fellow if I hadn't cared so much 
if I'd been able to drown a kitten it wouldn't have 
happened-* " He bent lower, kissing the black snout. 
" My best pal ! " 

He went on talking under his breath. He did not know 
that he talked. Some one quite close whispered the words 
into his ear. He was not conscious of thinking. It began 
to grow very dark. 

Presently Wickie sighed and stretched himself wearily, 
contentedly, as though it were no more than sleep that 
were coming sleep by the camp-fire after a long day's 
march. Then lay still. 

Tristram dragged himself to his feet. Out of the deepen- 
ing blackness of things, an instinct asserted itself dimly. 

" Help we've got to get help somehow " 

He said it aloud. It seemed to him that it had beep 
shouted by the invisible monitor at his side. He stumbled 
over the prostrate figure lying so simple and %till in the 
dust, reeling back from it, his face turned from Gaya. 
Then he began to walk. He walked long after the black- 
ness had beconae impenetrable. He was no more than 
the one instinct, tragically dominant over the body which 
had betrayed him. His body was dead. He could not 
feel it. It was a machine that he willed to go straight for- 
ward to some dim, vast punishment. 

He walked through hours and nights of darkness. At 
last there were lights in front of him great yellow balls 
of haloed flame, which danced in ecstasy to a passionate 
rhythm. He heard voices a sea of whisperings which 
surged towards him on a great wave, breaking over him 



118 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

in one hushed sound. He tried to cling to it through his 
fading consciousness. It became a face, gazing down at 
him, serene, triumphant, pitying it became a hand which 
touched him, held him in its iron gentleness. He could 
feel it holding to him surely, as all else broke from him, 
flinging him down into a bottomless silence. 



CHAPTER XIII 

CROSSED SWORDS 

_ 

IN reality, he had not gone more than half a mile. But 
things had happened to him of which he had had no 
knowledge twice he had retraced his steps and once 
fallen to his knees and groped his way through the dust 
in a blind circle. The eternities had been less than an 
hour, the darkness no more t^ian the clear nightfall, the 
lights a dozen lanterns twinkling from the trees of the 
dak-bungalow. His consciousness had been a dull, 
distorted thing, presenting the reality to him in shapeless 
exaggerations. He had heard music. It nad sounded to 
him like a huge, throbbing symphony in which these nights 
and days in Bjura, the passions which had swept him out 
of his path, were mercilessly reiterated motives. In reality, 
it was just Carreno's unsophisticated little waltz which 
Sigrid Fersen drew out lightly from a Steinway already 
much the worse for its Indian sojourn. He heard voices. 
It was young Radcliffe lounging in the shadow of the trees, 
making a gloomy assault on the susceptibilities of the 
latest sweetest thing from England, the while his real 
deeply embittered self was in the drawing-room scowling 
at Rasaldu, who, still crowned with laurels, leant against 
the piano staring at Sigrid unrestrainedly and with a very 
naked passion. 

The last voice that Tristram heard, the first and last 
face that he had seen, had been Sigrid's, but that was 
because she had swamped all other realisation. It was 
Mrs. Smithers, roaming like a dutiful policeman through 
the compound, who found him lying huddled together just 
inside the gates. She made no sort of outcry. Having 
ascertained that he was alive, she did not even hurry her- 
self. She went and stood primly at Sigrid's side, her 

119 



120 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

mittenecT hands folded in front of her, her back to Rasaldu, 
whom she openly detested. 

" He's there/' she said, jerking her head towards the 
compound ; " lying in a dead faint, poor dear. I guess it's 
your faultr you'd better do something, hadn't you ? " 

After one swift glance at the grim face, and without a 
word either to Smithers or Rasaldu, Sigrid had got up and 
gone down the steps into the darkness where Tristram lay. 
She kelt down beside him and touched him on his dry, 
burning forehead, on his throat, gliding down to his povvi-r- 
less hand. She spoke to him, calling him by name, and 
she knew that he heard, and recognised her. For a long 
minute she remained ths motionless, tasting her power 
to probe beneath his physical consciousness to the self in 
which he kept his dreams, his quaint beliefs, his simple, 
world-embracing love of things. And she knew that if he 
saw her, it was because her face lived in his inner vision, 
and that if he felt her hand it was because the memory of 
her touch was seared into hys very flesh. 

She granted him and herself that moment, and then she 
called for help. It came quickly, noisily. But though 
others intervened, she remained at Tristram's side. Her 
instinct told her that he knew she was there, and that she 
held him back from the abyss towards which he was drift- 
ing. They laid him between the faintly scented sheets of 
her bed. It was her order. The shaded lamp threw a 
subdued glow on the room's costly loveliness, on the scat- 
tered, cunningly grouped treasures of five continent 
fragmentary, priceless testimonies to a rare and varied 
taste. They exercised a curious influence on the grieved 
and troubled helpers. It was like a subtle intoxication, as 
though all that these things represented crept into their 
blood and fought there for mastery. And in silent, austere 
contrast was the man lying dimly outlined beneath the 
white sheet, the rugged, unkempt head tilted slightly back 
against the pillow, the thin, suffering features composed in 
a passing phase of grave serenity. 

They knew whence he came and what he had accom- 
plished, and the rarefied atmosphere of exquisite Paganism 
jarred on them. It was a challenge, a kind of surer 
at his whole life. They did not reason about it, they 
could scarcely define it. But it made Meredith's manner 
cold to the point of antagonism as he turned presently to 
where Sigrid stood in the shadow, her eyes fixed on the 



x CROSSED SWORDS 121 

old Italian vase which she had picked up casually. He 
hated her again she was so calm, almost indifferent. He 
came and stood beside her. hushing his full voice. 

" I think we've done all we can. He's pretty bad, I'm 
afraid. I'll have a wire sent to the next best station for a 
doctor and a nurse. Of course, he can't stay here we'O 
try and move him to-morrow." 

" I prefer him to stay here," she said, without look- 
ing up. 

He frowned, wishing that Rasaldu had not been one of 
those to help carry Tristram and to share in the uncon- 
ventional intimacy of the scene. It revolted him that he 
should stand there, watching and listening. The old ugly 
suspicions which he had sternly repressed in himself awoke 
again. They were not justly roused it was only that he 
was human and incensed. 

" I don't think Tristram would wish it," he said, and 
unconsciously his voice took on its heaviest Anglicanism. 
" He would not wish you to be put to any trouble. After 
all, he is almost a stranger to you." 

" I know him very well," she returned. " I think he 
has known me all his life. He would leave the decision to 
me." 

" At least, he would not wish you to be burdened with 

the unconventionally- He stammered, half expect- 

ing the vivid contempt with which she turned to him, and 
conscious of deserving it. 

" Oh, you priest ! You would rather your friend died 
than that your fetish of Other People's Respectability 
should be insulted." She waved him aside and flashed 
past him to the doorway, pulling the curtains noiselessly 
aside. In the second room, half-boudoir, hah* dressing- 
room, she found Mary Compton and Anne. The rest of 
the guests had discreetly evaporated, or at most hovered 
afar off waiting news of the man whom, oddly enough, they 
loved without intimacy. He had lived so much his own 
life, they had so often laughed at his oddities, and it was 
something. of a revelation to them that, now the inevitable 
disaster had overtaken hfti, they were sick and afraid and 
dumbly remorse-stricken. 

Captain Compton stood at the compound gates under the 
dying lights of the lanterns with a- couple of his brother 
officers, and smoked fiercely. 

" Poor old Tristram good old Hermit. It was bound 



122 . TRISTRAM SAHIB 

to happen. No human being could go on like that and not 
crock up. Damn it, we oughtn't to have allowed it. \Ve 
took him too much for granted. It's always the way. 
Good Lord, why doesn't some one come ? What's Rasaldu 
doing in that galere, I should like to know ? Ajid what 

the devil is that tearing down the road ? " 

Rasaldu meantime, delightfully conscious of his utility, 
had followed Sigrid and Meredith into the room where the 
two women waited. Mary Compton had remained boldly. 
She sat upright in her chair under the lamp with a rather 
bleak look of authority and ready-for-anything alertness, 
which had made her an adored terror in the grim days at 
Chitral. Her evening dress, an antiquity cunningly re- 
vised, fitted her badly, as though it knew she'hated it and 
meant to pay her out. She jerked her shoulders as Sigrid 
entered, seemingly exasperated by the garment's stiff, 
restraining influence. 

" Well ? " she demanded. " How is he ? " 

' " I don't know yet," was the low answer. " But I think 
he is very ill. I have only seen one person die ^it was like 
that." She turned her fair, smooth head towards Owen, 
but did not look at him. " Mr. Meredith wishes him to be 
moved. He is afraid my reputation might suffer or that 
there might be a scandal in his parish." 

Mrs. Compton considered the young missionary with a 
cold curiosity, giving him an almost ludicrous conscious- 
ness of the oft-denied but very profound sex solidarity of 
women. 

" How idiotic ! Men are just like babies in a crisis 
always fussing about the unessentials. Of course, Major 
Tristram must stay at any rate, until he is out of danger. 
And, Sigrid, as a sop to a hopeless passion, let me help 
nurse him." 

" We'll pull him through together," Sigrid answered. 
' ' Mr. Meredith, don't you think with Mrs. Compton and Mrs. 
Smithers on guard, the situation should pass muster ? " 

He shrugged his broad shoulders. He was looking at 
Anne Anne whose white, tear-stained face peered out of the 
shadow like a pitiful, frightened^host's, and somehow 'the 
sight filled him with a cold anger. 

" My suggestion was well meant," he said. " I made it 
for Major Tristram's sake as well as for yours. I thought 
he would prefer to find himself among old friends." 

" He could have come to us," Anne said, in her thin, 



CROSSED SWORDS 123 

broken voice. " I have nursed so much and mother under- 
stands sickness, too " 

Sigrid Fersen glanced at her. 

" I suppose Colonel Boucicault is an old friend," 
she said. "Colonel Boucicault, who has helped to kill 
him " 

There was a second of strained silence. Anne's face had 
changed from white to red, and then to a deeper pallor. 
She dropped forward with a little moan, her face hidden 
in her hands, crying helplessly. Meredith took a step 
forward, as though to protect her. The veins on his low, 
broad forehead were swollen. 

"Surely " he began hoarsely. 

Sigrid made an imperative gesture. 

" I cannot be bothered with your loves and hates," she 
said. " I'm going to save Major Tristram that's all that 
matters to me. You can stay here if you want to both 
of you but on my terms." 

It was like the cut of a whip across the face. Meredith 
found no answer for a moment. He was sick with horror 
at the tide of anger which swept over him. His primitive 
instinct was to strike back physically. He knew now that 
all Anne's distrust was justified. The woman was dan- 
gerous dangerous, above all, to Anne's happiness. He 
had the right now to combat her to set himself squarely 
against her power in Gaya. He w.anted to assume the 
authority now, but it was t6o late. Moreover, at the 
bottom, he knew he could not touch this enemy. She was 
of another world, impervious to the penalties which his 
could inflict. 

And Compton stood on the threshold Compton, whose 
face was a sufficient warning and behind him Ayeshi. 
Both men had reached the verandah steps at the run, and 
now Compton had pulled up, meeting his wife's stare of 
reproof with a hurried apology. 

."I'm sorry I didn't mean to make a row or startle 
you. Ayeshi has just come with bad news. Miss Bou- 
cicault I think you ought to go home at once. Your 
father has been badly hurt " 

"My father! " She sprang to her feet, her eyes wide 
with an incredulous fear. " My father hurt ? ' ; she 
echoed. 

" He was found half-an-hour ago, unconscious. Some 
one must have attacked him, Of course, now Tristram's 
5 



124 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

done there's no doctor. We'll telegraph at once. Rad- 
cliffe's got his gig I thought you might go with him." 

He' was now honestly conscience-stricken. What hap- 
pened was only terrible to him because of its significance. 
It was like a signal of the first break of the storm the thing 
for which he had waited. That any one should care per- 
sonally for the injured man least of all the girl whose 
youth he had trodden underfoot seemed incredible. Yet 
she stood there, white and shivering with shock. He tried 
to apologise again, but she did not seem to hear ; only, as 
Meredith came to her side, she turned to him like a panic- 
.1-11 child. 

" Please take me home to him, Owen please take me 
home." 

C'ompton made way for them both. He beckoned to 
Rasaldu, who obeyed the summons reluctantly. 

" We'll clear out and leave you the field. Ayeshi can 
bring us the news to the club. Suppose I shan't sec 
again for a bit, 'old girl." 

" Xot till my job's done here. Get the ayah to bring 
round some reasonable clothes." 

" Right-o ! So long, old girl." 

He came up to his wife and kissed her shyly. She patted 
him. 

" So long. Not too many pegs." 

The room emptied. Neither Meredith nor Anne had 
said good-bye nor looked at Sigrid. Rasaldu bowed over 
her hand, but even he realised that she was not conscious 
of him. As his broad,, fat back vanished down the veran- 
dah, Mrs. Compton got up, shaking herself. 

" Now we can get to business. God defend me in my 
last hour from sentimentalists of Anne's make. Can I 
borrow a dressing-gown, Sigrid ? " 

" Do. Smithy will give you one." 

"Thanks. By the way, I expect Boucicault's not the 
1 t>t to go. It's the first bubble on the water, and soon \\c 
shall all be in it, and boiling nicely." She made liei 
on this rather light-hearted prophecy ; but Sigrid. who had 
made a movement to follow her, lingered for a moment. 
Her eyes were cast down as though in thought, but in 
reality they were fixed on Ayeshi's hand. When she raised 
them suddenly, she found that he too, was watching her. 
There was nothing insolent, nothing inquisitive in his 
scrutiny. His expression was grave and reticent. It 



CROSSED SWORDS 125 

t (-, 

made him seem much older. He was no longer the boy 
who had cried on her doorstep. He looked at her with a 
man's eyes, with a man's understanding and stern power 
of secrecy. 

" Was it you who found the Colonel ? " she asked. 

" Yes, Mem-Sahib." 

" He is badly hurt ? " 

" I think so. The blow was a terrible one. It seemed 
to me that he was conscious. Once he looked at me, but 
he could not move or speak." 

"Do you think it was one of his men, Ayeshi ? " 

" I do not know, Mem-Sahib." % 

She turned away from him. 

" There is blood on your hand, Ayeshi." 

He salaamed imperturbably. 

" I will wash it away. It is a cut a little thing." 

He followed her into the next room with the unobtrusive 
decision of one whose right to enter could never be chal- 
lenged. Mrs. Smithers had moved the lamp behind a screen, 
but Ayeshi, standing at the foot of the bed, looked down 
through the veil of shadow as though the sleeper's face 
was an open book in which he read intently. Then he 
looked at Sigrid. She had taken her place close to Tris- 
tram's pillow, and one hand rested -lightly on the coverlet. 
There was -a caress in that touch. Her fair head was bent 
in grave, pitying contemplation that was yet touched with 
a curious detachment, as though she looked down from a 
great distance. In the half- light, she seemed unreal, fanci- 
ful, the very spirit of that beautiful aesthetic Paganism 
which the room breathed. 

Ayeshi shivered a little, and his slender, dark hands 
resting on the carved wooden bed, tightened their grasp. 

" Mem-Sahib ! " he said, softly. 

" Yes, Ayeshi ? " 

" Mem-Sahib I have seen so. many die of late. Death 
at its best is sleep. The Sahib sleeps deeply. Perhaps it 
is the will of his God that death should come to him now 
that he has given so much for those he loves. Is there not 
a saying in your Book, Mem-Sahib 'Greater love hath 
no man than this, that he layeth down his life for his 
friend ' 1 " 

Sigrid Fersen lifted her head. . 

" Yes," she answered steadily. 

" Meredith Sahib taught it me. I have forgotten much, 



126 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

ft * 

but not that. It was true of him. Others those who 
come here to teach us preach to us, but he lived. He did 
not . believe no, not as Sahib Meredith believed. He 
believed in the flowers and the birds and the wind and the 
mountains he believed in us." He put his hands to his 
breast, and his eyes glowed in the darkness. " I was his 
brother his younger brother," he said proudly. 

" And he loved you, Ayeshi." 

" He loved all men even the worst." He came a step 
nearer to her. " Mem-Sahib a woman died out in Bjura 
died horribly. He stayed with her to the end. She was 
hideous, and he took her head on his knee and comforted 
her as though she had been his mother. There was a little 
child, and he took it and promised he would care for it. 
She died happy." 

Her head was bent again. 

" That was like him, Ayeshi." 

" Mem-Sahib if the end comes now it will trouble him 
that he cannot keep his promise." 

" He shall keep his promise. I will keep it for him. 
And you, Ayeshi stay with me." 

But he drew back, and the lighT died out of his fae, 

" This is the end, Mem-Sahib. His and mine. I loved 
him I, too, would have given my life remember that of 
me, Mem-Sahib." 

She looked up at him, and the naked agony in his eyes 
was something that she indeed remembered long after- 
wards. 

" I think he knows," she said. 

He salaamed deeply. 

" I will go and guard the door, Mem-Sahib." 

He was gone without a sound. A shadow seemed to 
Jiave passed from the room. His, very voice had been so 
low, that now the silence flowed over it as though it had 
never been. Yet what he had said lingered. 

Sigrid Fersen drew her chair close up to the bedside, and 
sat there chin in hand watching. The dim light of the lamp 
threw the shadow of Tristram's profile on to the white- 
washed wall beyond. Ugly enough the pointed beard 
thrust out under the broad, unshapely nose the big fore- 
head made grotesque by the outline of disordered hair. 
But even the shadow gave a hint of what the face 
revealed in its unconsciousness. The mouth, tender and 
strong as a woman's may be, passionate and austere, 



CROSSED SWORDS 12T 

laughter and the joy and love of life in the corners of the 
closed eyes, and over all, like a veil, pain. Quixote with a 
grain of English humour Quixote at the end, vanquished 
and conquering. 

He stirred a little in the first uneasiness of coming 
delirium v and she laid her hand on his and he grew still 
again. 

Mary Compton came in presently. With Mrs. Smithers, 
she had been preparing a special fever antidote of her own, 
and there was an air of resolve about her neat, kimono- 
clad figure which made death seem afar off. She came 
lightly up to the bedside, stirring the contents of a malicious- 
looking medicine -glass. 

" Now, if we can only get him to take a few drops, they 
will help to keep him quiet. Of course, we don't know 
what in the world's the matter with him. It may be the 
ghastly thing they had in Bjura; but I don't think so. 
He wouldn't have come back. Are you afraid ? " She 
glanced down at her companion, and Sigrid met her close 
scrutiny tleliberately. 

"No." 

" W r ell, you've been crying, anyhow." 

"That's possible." 

" What for ? " 

Sigrid's lips were twisted with a wry smile. 

" 1 don't know I was touched about something, I 
suppose. I think it was because I never thanked him for 
something he gave me I never gave him anything to 
take with him when he went out there I've just remem- 
bered." 

" H'm ! How many times have you two met ? " 

" Twice no, three times, and the first time counted 
most of all." 

" Are you in love with him, too ? " 

" I've been trying to decide yes, I think so." 

Mary Compton poured out the medicine into a tea- 
spoon. 

"Do you mean to marry him ? Because, if you do, you 
will." 

" No, I'm not going to marry him." 

" Why not ? " 

She made a gesture brief, impatient. 

"My dear, can't you see? We live at the opposite 
poles of things, he, the unbelieving Christian, I, the be- 



^8 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

lieving Pagan. Look at his life look at mine. Look at 
this room these things. You have a flair for what is 
precious and beautiful can't you see ? " 

Mary Corapton continued to balance the. spoon. Her 
bright hazel eyes were fixed thoughtfully on the other's 
face. 

" Yes, I see. And I love you, Sigrid, as Gaya does, 
without caring who or what you are, or what you mean to 
do with us. But just sometimes I'm afraid sometimes 
I think it would have been more merciful to have let us go 
on our own old, stodgy way." 

" You mean him ? He sought me out. I believe he 
brought me here. There are more things in heaven and 
earth, Mary, than are dreamed of in your philosophy. 
And even if that weren't true he knew as well as I did 
what I was what I wanted adventure, knowledge of the 
finest and the best in life and in men a last splendid hour 
he would not have denied it me." 

The last words had sunk below the. whisper of their brief 
conversation,- and Mary Compton did not hear them. 
Very skilfully she forced the opiate between the unconscious 
man's lips. 

" At any rate, we're a nice couple of nurses chattering 
over poor Tristram's head. Will you watch for a little ? 
Mrs. Smithers and I will relieve you." 

"If you want him to live leave us alone. I shall not 
sleep to-night." 

" In those clothes ? " 

She glanced down at her quaint, gold brocaded dress. 

" Yes. He loves beautiful things." 

" He may think he is in Paradise and you an angel," 
rather satirically. 

" Or perhaps men so near death see clearer ' 

Mary Compton sighed and bent and kissed her. 

" Goodnight, then. If there is any change, send for us. 
Ayeshi is at the door." 

" Good night." 

Now the last sound was gone. Even the man's shallow, 
irregular breathing became for the moment quieter, as 
though peace had crept into his troubled oblivion. Sigrid 
sat motionless at his side. The light touched her with a 
dim brilliance ; it dwelt on the smooth gold hair, on the 
gold of her dress, on the rich living whiteness of her anus 
and shoulders. She shone subduedly like an image on an 



CROSSED SWORDS 129 

altar-shrine an image of life and of life's splendour faced 
with the shadow of death. 

Presently Tristram stirred and muttered to himself. 
The words were at first thick, indistinguishable, but sud- 
denly he roused himself. She caught sentences, rapid, 
fever- stricken the incoherent risings from the depths of 
the man's soul. It was his credo a fragment of that faith 
of which Ayeshi had spoken, perhaps never before formu- 
lated, now poured in a molten stream of delirious sincerity. 

" I believe in all things living I believe in beauty 
I believe in the goodness of men and in their immortality. 
I believe in the immortality of the flowers, of the trees, 
of the grass in the wind I believe in God who is all things, 
who is myself and her. I believe in the sacredness of all 

life " An intolerable agony crept into his voice. He 

repeated the last phrase on a rising reflection. " Oh, God, 
I believe in the sacredness of life " 

She bent over him. She laid her hand on his forehead 
and suddenly his eyes opened. They rested full on her face, 
but she knew, for all their extraordinary brilliance, that 
they did not see her. It was not to her that he spoke, but 
to the vision of her. " You must go, you too everything. 
A man who has broken faith there is a curse on us 
an awful curse. We kill what we love we kill what is 
holy, unfathomable every day of our lives for pleasure, 
because we must. We're doomed to destroy. We try 
not to we try to save but the curse is on us the curse 
of Cain His voice had dropped ; it broke now with 

a groan and the brief glimpse of coherent thought was 
over. He began to mutter again isolated words, a name, 
constantly a name. Still she remained bSht over him. 
Her small face had lost colour, and something of its aloof 
pity. She was breathing quickly, through parted lips. 

" Tristram ! " she whispered. 

He raised one burning hand and pushed her back. 

"No not now you must go for pity's sake. I've 
carried you here here so long through the burning 
' days since that night. You don't know no other woman 
there had been fancies the flowers by the waterside- 
the lotus there in the shadows the lizard in the long grass 
you were the golden corn swaying in the wind, the flowers 
the stars, the mountains, the slender trees in the storm 
great ships sailed down the river you came in and out 
of their ghosts flying over the water I watched you till 



130 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

dawn you were the dawn dancing over the world's grey 

roofs you were nature, life, God He raised himself 

on his elbow in a frenzied ecstasy. She put her arm round 
his shoulders trying to force him back. In a minute his 
voice had changed grew dry and harsh and imperative. 
" Separate the' living from the dead no flinching it's a 
miracle, this life a mystery sacred fan the flames the 
dead, too, are sacred fire is pure now it is over finished 

I can sleep " He sat upright, head thrown back as 

one awaiting thirstily release, then lifted his arms high up 
in a gesture of despair. " The colours down down in 
the dust a blow straight in the face of God the" goal 
missed in a minute oh ! God ! if I cared less 

He fell back exhausted, broken, his breathing so hushed 
that for a moment she believed that it had ceased for ever. 
She still held him, her arm crushed under his great shoulders, 
and she called him by name, recklessly. He turned over 
a little on his side. 

" Wickie understood," he whispered. " Wickie knew I 
couldn't help it but my mother don't let her know 
not yet. .She's old so old one 'long sacrifice and now 
to have failed " 

" She shan't know I promise I promise " 

He did not, could not have heard. His head tossed 
restlessly on the pillow. The collar of his shirt was open, 
and she caught a glimpse of a red swollen line across his 
chest. She drew her breath quickly staring at it. 

" You must go back, Sigrid you must. You are not 
a dream not now. Back up on to the mountain-top 
to your golden palaces where there is no meanness no 
poverty no sin you could not go with me where I am 
going " 

She knelt beside him, holding him with all her strength, 
his head pressed against her bare shoulder. 

" I am going with you, Tristram Sahib to-night at least 
I'll go with you wherever you go to-night. I'll try your 
way of loving and dying just this one night, Tristram." 

There was a blue, unfamiliar shadow about her lips. 
The room with its dim treasures \\as no longer part of her. 
She had lost her serenity, her easy detachment. Not the 
triumphant quality of her power. This man was dying 
not of the body, but of the soul. She could feel him 
sinking, and she went down with him down into the 
vortex of his unknown struggle, fighting as she had danced 



CROSSED SWORDS 131 

and lived, with her whole will, with all the splendid vitalness 
of her being. 

And his eyes, glazing already, were turned to her and 
saw her. They became peaceful content. Whatever 
message she had willed to pierce the dense cloud of delirium 
had reached him. He sighed, and lay still in her arms. 

Presently she saw that his eyes were closed. A fainj 
moisture glistened on his smooth forehead, and the wild 
muttering passed into the quiet of an exhausted slumber. 

Still she did not move. 

The night sank into deeper darkness and stillness. The 
hours crept on their way, monstrous, heavy-footed. She 
measured her breathing to his, she held him in arms that 
had lost all f eeling. The shadow about her lips crept over 
her whole face, blotting out its youth. 

The dawn came at last, creeping in between the parted 
curtains, mixing pallidly with the dying lamplight. The 
rich embroideries and the glittering curios faded, the high 
carved chair by the dressing-table became spectral, unreal. 

Ayeshi entered noiselessly, passing like a ghost to the 
quiet bedside. Tristram had turned over, his face to the 
coming day, his head resting in the curve of his arm. So 
Ayeshi had often seen him by the camp-fire, after the 
day's work. 

And beneath, on the great tiger-skin, huddled and still, 
a golden-clad, incongruous figure, which even in that 
moment retained something imperious, conquering, exultant. 

Ayeshi bent down and touched the pale, disordered hair. 
He leant across and kissed the man's unconscious hand 
lightly as if it had been a sleeping child's. 

Then, noiselessly as he had come, glided across the 
room to the open window and thence out into the morning. 



CHAPTER XIV 

TRISTRAM CHOOSES HIS ROAD 

DR. MARTIN from Lucknow had made his examina- 
tion, and now he sat opposite to the woman on whose 
husband he was about to pass sentence, and told 
her the truth with all the delicacy at his command. He 
was a civilian with a considerable practice among women, 
and a corresponding belief in his understanding of the sex. 
But he did not understand Mrs. Boucicault. Possibly the 
long journey, partly on horse-back, partly on a bone- 
racking bullock-wagon, had upset his nerve and that nice 
balance of mind which made a correct analysis possible. 
He had felt oddly and ridiculously sickened by the man 
whose bedside he had just left. There was something 
revolting in that great hulk of over-developed, ill-con- 
ditioned strength, inert and helpless, without power of 
speech or motion, with nothing living in it but the eyes. 
Dr. Martin had seen a great many ugly sights in his career, 
but nothing uglier than those desperately living eyes in 
the dead body. 

Now the wife sat opposite him and smiled at him a 
slow, unending smile which might have pointed to a mind 
deranged. by grief if she had not been so eminently practical 
and calm. She was dressed girlishly in white, with a, red 
rose stuck gaily in her belt. The grey fluffy hair had been 
carefully yet loosely dressed, and there was a faint tinge of 
artificial colour on her cheeks, Her restless fingers glittered 
with valuable rings. It was still early in the day, and Dr. 
Martin had pronounced a sentence which was practically one 
of death, and he felt that the whole situation was horrid a 
kind of danse, macabre. The only person who gave him the 
remotest sensation of preserved decency was the daughter. 
She sat apart from her mother with her head bowed, her 
hands tight clasped in her lap, and he had seen a tear fall. 

132 



TRISTRAM CHOOSES HIS ROAD 133 

He thought her rather pretty and feminine. With the 
rapid, constructive reasoning of his sex, he placed her in the 
catalogue of good daughters of adoring fathers and heart- 
less mothers. 

" And so," said Mrs. Boucicault, summing up, " you 
don't think that there is much hope. He may live a long 
time of course but like that quite conscious, but helpless. 
On the other hand, the end might come suddenly. Isn't 
that what you mean ? " 

Dr. Martin fidgeted. He felt tact was wasted on her. 

" Those are the two extremes of the case," he admitted. 
" But there are intermediary possibilities. He might get 
back a certain amount of activity speech, for instance. It 
all depends on the treatment. All that I can advise for 
the present is that he should not be worried or alarmed. 
Get him a long leave klon't talk of retirement keep him 
here, at any rate, for the present. That's the best you 
can do." 

"It is what I intended/' Mrs. Boucicault returned 
deliberately. 

Again the little doctor felt himself vaguely upset. It 
was as though just as he was bowling smoothly along a 
familiar road, some one came and madly jolted him into an 
uncomfortable rut. He clung obstinately to his course. 

" I can't say how I sympathise with you," he said. " No 
one can appreciate more than I do the courage of our women 
here in India. Literally we all go more or less with our 
lives in our hands. Of course, the vast majority of the 
natives are loyal, but in so many millions there are bound 
to be one or two degenerate fanatics with a grievance. I 
understand there has been some question of sedition in the 
native regiment at least, a good deal of discontent. We 
had rumours of it even in LucknoV." 

Anne Boucicault looked up. She had certainly been 
crying, but now her brown eyes were bright, and her lips 
straight and firm. 

" It wasn't any of father's men," she said on a low note 
of defiance. " I'm sure it wasn't. Father is a fine soldier. 
When he was captain they used to call him the Bagh Sahib 
because of his fearlessness. They worshipped him. One 
of the older men told me I know they wouldn't have 
touched him." 

Dr. Martin smiled. He felt relieved and pleasantly 
moved by the quick and passionate championship of the 



134 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

hulk he had just condemned. He had, moreover, heard 
something of Colonel Boucicault's past and something of 
his present. For the latter he was prepared to find some 
explanation in the grey-haired, bedizened figure of in- 
difference opposite him. 

" One would be glad to believe that you are right, Miss 
Boucicault," he said courteously. " If only the dastardly 
coward could be got hold of " 

" I believe I know who he is," she interrupted in a hard, 
quick way, which was new to her. " Ayeshi, Major Tris- 
tram's servant, has disappeared. He had some money 
which the Rajah gave him for his education, and he has 
stolen it and gone. I saw him that night when he came 
and told us that father had been found. I saw blood on 
his hand." 

Dr. Martin hesitated an instant, as though in two minds 
as to his answer. Finally he looked up with a professional 
twinkle. 

" Feminine intuition again ! Well, since you've got so 
far on your own, Miss Boucicault, I might as well tell you 
that your surmise is shared by others. I met Captain 
Compton at the dak-bungalow, and he told me there's a 
hue and cry after this said Ayeshi. Only it's to be kept 
quiet. I understand the boy was a sort of protege of 
Major Tristram's, and there's a general opinion that, unless 
it's necessary, the latter is not to be told. He's pretty weak 
still, and it's something of a shock to get one of your pet 
theories bowled over in that way." 

Anne's eyes sank to her clasped hands. 

" Is Major Tristram better ? " she asked. 

" Fine. Well round the corner. But I fancy it must 
have been touch and go with him. v That fair-haired 
woman 'Miss Fersen, isn't that the name ? seems to 
have fought every inch of the ground." He reflected 
pleasurably for a minute. " Well, that's the sort of nurse 
a man wants on his death-bed a real fighter and worth 
looking at to boot something to make life worth struggling 
for. Great dancer, isn't she ? Well, I'm a sort of back- 
number that never catches up, and there's always a different 
star on the horizon when I get home on leave, and even then 
I only get a glimpse. My people hang out in a God-forsaken 
spot in Yorkshire." He rambldd on for a time with a man's 
affable, crushing indifference as to whether his listeners are 
bored or otherwise, but finally, chilled by Mrs. Boucicault's 



TRISTRAM CHOOSES HIS ROAD 135 

enigmatic smile and Anne's white silence, he got up. 
!' Well, I'll be getting along to the club " 

Mrs. Boucicault remained seated. 

" Would you spare me a minute, Dr. Martin ? A little 
trouble of my own a bruise, a mere nothing, still perhaps 
you would look at it. Anne, run away, would you ? " 

Dr. Martin, a little irritated, by this fresh ^and probably 
petty call on his services, wondered at the girl's dignity. It 
must be galling at her age to be told to " run away." He 
scented tragedy, and sized it up and turned to its creator 
with professionalism and small sympathy. 

" Now, Mrs. Boucicault, if you could just tell me " 

Anne heard the last words and smiled bitterly to herself. 
She went out on to the verandah and stood there looking 
down into the sunlit garden with eyes that were blind with 
misery and anger and contempt. In that quiet room, 
listening to the doctor's pleasantly modulated voice, she 
had been through purgatory. She knew that the ways of 
God were inscrutable it was the all-covering explanation 
of her creed but they were sometimes hard to tread . Why 
had He given a bad woman the power to save the life of a 
good man ? Why had He allowed Evil to creep in and take 
possession of peaceful Gaya ? Was it perhaps a trial, a 
test of their strength. ? That seemed possible. At least she 
did not doubt the working of God's hand. She had seen 
it strike strike terribly. In a few 'hours it had brought a 
miracle of change in her little cosmos. The figure of terror 
had gone down like some monstrous clay-footed idol, and 
become pitiful and pitiable. She no longer feared it no 
longer hated. She yearned towards it as towards a sinner 
whose punishment has been meted out with an implacable 
justice. He was a symbol of Divine wrath, an awful ad- 
monition, but beyond man's hate or censure. He had 
become almost sacred to her. But her mother had drifted 
from her, had wilfully stood apart in that solemn moment, 
with that hateful smile on her lips had seemed to deny the 
very existence of God Himself. Anne shuddered. It was 
as though a mask had fallen from the grey-tinted, childish, 
wrinkled face, and that Anne saw her as she was, petty, 
cruel, mean-souled a hard, unlovable woman who had 
perhaps driven her father to his destruction. Her father 
had been a great man a fine soldier, brave, daring, much 
beloved. She thought of him with a dim, uncertain pride 
which grew stronger and clearer. But her mother sank 



136 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

into a shadow. She was little and selfish. In this awful 
hour when Death hung over them, she thought of her own 
petty ailments of a trivial bruise, keeping Dr. Martin 
back to discuss herself with a nauseating self-pity. 

In that moment Anne's heart turned towards her father 
with an overpowering tenderness, a kind of comradeship of 
understanding. 

How long the}' were ! Presently she heard her mother's 
voice, high-pitched and steady. Mrs. Boucicault led the 
way out on to the balcony. She was toying with the red 
rose, smelling it with a deliberate epicureanism. 

" I am so glad you are able to stay on a few days, Dr. 
Martin. I am giving a dinner and a little dance to the 
Station next week, and of course Miss Fersen will be of the 
party. She is rather a friend of mine. You will meet her 
then. Good-bye for the present, and ever so many thanks." 

Dr. Martin muttered something. Even then Anne 
wondered at him. He took no notice of her, and went 
stumbling awkwardly down the steps like a man shaken out 
of his composure. His face was white and rather sickly 
looking. 

The two women stood side by side, and watched him 
clamber up into the dog-cart and drive off. Even after lie 
had disappeared they remained motionless as though both 
feared the first move, tke first break in the long silence 
between them. Or perhaps it was only Anne who was 
afraid, for when she turned suddenly she found her mother's 
gaze fixed absently on the distance, her smile lingering at 
the corners of her mouth like the forgotten grimace of an 
actor who has suddenly ceased to act. 

" Mother you didn't mean it it was a mistake I 
didn't understand you, of course it isn't true about the 
dinner " 

" Why not ? " Mrs. Boucicault turned her faded blue eyes 
to her daughter's face. " Yes, it's perfectly true," she said. 

Anne was shivering with an almost physical sickness. 

"It isn't possible," she said breathlessly. "You can't 
realise with father so ill so terribly ill. How can you 
think of such a thing? It's wicked cruel! What \\ill 
people think ? " 

" I don't really know. But they'll come. Sigrid Fersen 
will come, I know. I wish she would dance just once. I 
have never seen her." 

" That woman ! You mean to have her now ? " 



TRISTRAM CHOOSES HIS ROAD 137 

" I thought you'd be glad. She seems to have saved 
Major Tristram's life." 

" The Rajah's mistress ! " 

Mrs. Boucicault laughed lightly. 

" My dear little daughter, how grown-up of you ! Is 
that the sort of thing your religion teaches you ? " 

Anne made no answer. She was ashamed and sorry, 
but also full of a bitter resentment, as good people are when 
they have been goaded into an unjustifiable aggression, an 
ugly, unchristian outbreak. Yet she recognised her share 
of the fault with contrition, and in penance sought to retrace 
her steps, to bridge the widening gulf between her and the 
woman who one short week ago had been her companion, 
her half -protected, half -protecting comrade. She came 
and laid her hand gently on her mother's. 

" It was horrid of me to say ttiat it was uncharitable. 
But I am so unhappy " 

" Unhappy are you ? " Mrs. Boucicault smiled vaguely 
down at the caressing hand as though it amused her. 
" Why ? " 

" Mother isn't it obvious ? isn't it the most terrible 
thing that could have happened ? " 

" It doesn't seem to me terrible at all." 

Anne held her ground. She was trembling with a kind 
of painful excitement. In her own mind there was a 
picture of herself fighting to bring this shallow little soul up 
to the heights of realisation, to some dim perception of 
the real tragedy. 

" It is terrible," she affirmed patiently. " Even if you 
don't love father any more you must see how awful it is 
to be struck down like that in a minute, without time to 
make his peace with any of us and now to lie there dumb 
and helpless, never able to tell us things never able to 
make up for anything. Isn't that pitiable ? It's the very 
coldest way one can look at it. But you must feel more 
than that. After all, you did love him once. Of course 
he was different then, but you must try and remember 
him as he was in those days " 

Mrs. Boucicault patted the hand on her arm. 

" That sounds quite pretty and nice, Anne. But I 
haven't time for remembering." 

" Not time ? You've got all your life. You must try 
and make a new picture of him. I shall. I shall think 
of him as the handsome, brave Tiger Sahib and learn to 



138 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

love him. We've got to hold together, mother, and make 
this awful trial bearable for him. After all, we can't tell 
it may be a kind of test of us all it may be the saving 
of him of us " 

Mrs. Boucicault shook her head like a playful, obstinate 
child. 

" I don't look at it like that at all. I'm free. I'm going 
to have a rattling good time." 

" Mother ! " She still retained her affectionate attitude, 
but it had become official, perfunctory. All the warmth 
in her died out, leaving a chill horror. " Mother you 
can't mean what you say ! If you do you must be mad 
or very wicked." 

" I dare say both, my dear. I really don't care. I'm 
free that's how I feel about it. I'm going to make up 
for lost time " 

Anne shrank away from her. 
-" It's awful horrible " 

Mrs. Boucicault threw her rose petulantly into the 
garden. She had only worn it a short time, and it had 
already withered. 

" I guessed you would feel like that. If you don't like 
it you could go down to Trichy and stay with the Osbornes. 
They are your father's relations, and they always hated me, 
so you'll get on. Of course I don't want to persuade you. 
I'm very fond of you, Anne. I should like you to 
stay." 

" And watch you make a mock of my father's misery ? " 

" Ntf, Anne only having a good time." 

" It would make me sick to see you." 

" Well, then of course you must go." 

The two women considered each other for a moment. 
There was no pity, no relenting to be read on the older face, 
only an inflexible purpose softened by a childlike look of 
gay anticipation. Anne turned away. 

" I couldn't bear it I couldn't bear to live with you " 

She ran down the verandah steps into the garden as 
though flying from a revelation of evil. 

Mrs. Boucicault looked after her, watching till the light- 
clad figure had disappeared among the trees. Then, pluck- 
ing a fresh rose from the trellis-work, went back into 
her boudoir. A few minutes later she entered her husband's 
8i< k-room and motioned the nurse to leave them. In that 
simple action there was an authority, an easy self-assurance 



TRISTRAM CHOOSES HIS ROAD 139 

that seemed to change even her appearance. She held 
herself well, with lifted head as a prisoner does who breathes 
the free air after many years. 

Boucicault saw her. He. could not turn his head, but 
she stood well within the range of his roving eyes. He 
stared at her, and she too studied him, the while scenting 
her rose delicately. He had changed almost beyond 
belief. The muscles of his face were withered so that it 
looked much smaller and weaker. The consuming, un- 
appeasable temper was still marked about the mouth, in 
the black puckered brow, but now it was merely pitiable. 
It could never make another man or woman cower. It 
could never make Tier cower again. Perhaps some such 
reflection passed through both their minds. Boucicault 
turned his eyes away like a sick animal. It was almost 
therfirst sign he had given of understanding. Hitherto, 
though obviously conscious, he had refused all response to 
the code of signals which Dr. Martin had planned for him, 
in his bitter humiliation of body seeming to cling to the 
utter isolation of his mind. Now, though he could not 
move, he appeared to shrink into himself, to cringe before 
an encroachment which he could no longer avert. His 
wife came and stood close beside him. She was playing 
idly with her rose, twisting the stem between her fingers. 
Her eyes were bright, wide open, with two sharp points 
of light in them which seemed to dance. There was real 
colour in her cheeks. She was not smiling now, and yet 
her face, her whole body, radiated a fierce, vivid amusement. 
" I've just seen Dr. Martin, Richard," she said. " You'd 
rather I told you the truth, wouldn't you ? He says there's 
no hope of your getting well not really well. Perhaps, 
after a long time, you may be able to move a little, but you 
might also die suddenly. No one can do anything for 
you. You'll just lie there. I thought I'd tell you. I'm 
going to have a good time. Anne doesn't think it quite 
proper, but I'm sure you'll understand. I haven't had 
much fun in the last few years, have I ? And I was 
awfully gay before I married you. You don't object, do 
you, Richard ? Do say so if you do." 

She grew bigger taller, like a bird of prey spreading 
itself over its maimed and helpless victim. The soldier's 
whitewashed room, blank of all beauty, made a simple 
frame for the artificial brilliancy of her. The man whose 
dead body outlined itself massively under the thin cover- 



140 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

ing, burned and withered in it. His eyes met hers for an 
instant in understanding and mad defiance. 

" Of course we'll do all we can, Richard. We shall slay 
in Gaya. Dr. Martin advises it, and I want to. It will 
be nicer for you too, because if we went to a new place 
or to Cheltenham or something of that sort nobod}^ would 
bother about you. Here, of course, people are bound to 
take notice of you. They'll drop in and tell you about the 
regiment and all that. I shall come in every day, so that 
you shall hear all I am doing. I expect I shall be very 
busy." 

She paused deliberately, assuming an attitude of closer 
interest. " Have you tried to tell any one who killed you ? 
I wonder. Perhaps you don't want to. I expect it was 
something discreditable. Besides, even if he or they were 
caught and hanged it wouldn't help you much, would it ? 
You couldn't see it done unless we dragged you out in 

a long chair or something ' She laughed, and bent 

over him a pale-tinted, delicate, very sinister figure. 
"Am I tiring you? You look tired. Smell that rose 
isn't it beautiful ? you can smell still, can't you ? But I 
forgot ; you don't care for flowers. You wouldn't let me 
have any in the house. Well, perhaps you will grow to 
care for them. I will tell nurse to put some in a vase for 
you." She touched his cheek lightly with the flower and 
laughed again. " Well, good-bye for to-day, Richard." 

She pirouetted on her heel like a girl, and went to the 
door. He could not see her, but he heard her give a little 
gasp and then utter a name. His eyes opened to the full 
he began to breathe quickly and laboriously. The veins 
on his dark, wizened-looking forehead stood out in the 
frightful effort to break through, to move, to speak 

" Major Tristram what a shock you gave me ! I 
thought you were at death's door. You oughtn't to \>e 
here, I'm sure. I hardly recognised you." 

" Yes I am a sight, aren't I ? Still, I'm not dead 
not by some lengths. May I speak to your husband ?'" 

" Oh, yes, you may speak to him. You won't mind a 
monologue, will you ? You've heard about it, I expect 
spinal column affected or something but I'm so stupid 
about these things. Do come and talk to me afterwards 
won't you, Major ? I should like to hear all your 
news." 

The door closed. Boucicault lifted his eyes. They were 



TRISTRAM CHOOSES H?S ROAD 141 

sunken so black, so lightless that their expression could 
not be guessed at. It might have been an appalling hatred 
anything. 

Tristram did not return the gaze. He stood at the sick 
man's side, rocking on his heels, fighting a purely physical 
battle, then suddenly crumbled up on the edge of the bed, 
his shaking hands to his face. Thus he remained for a 
minute whilst Boucieault's eyes rested on him with mute, 
unfathomable intensity. 

Presently Tristram raised himself, and the encounter 
had taken place, almost actual in the poignancy and force 
of the memory which flared up behind the mutual scrutiny. 
Neither man flinched. 

" I had the deuce of a business to get here," Tristram 
said at last quite simply. " I had to humbug and dodge 
any number of people, and get my own legs to crawl which 
wasn't easy. But I had to come. I've got to speak to 
you, Boucicault. I'd have come sooner, but I've been a 
raving lunatic most of the time and this was my first 
chance. You may think it damnable of me to hound you 
down when you can't hit back as it were, but I can't help 
that. I've got to have it out." He paused a moment, 
running his hand over his close-cropped head. He seemed 
to be struggling for coherency. Boucieault's stare never 
wavered. " It's not very much I've got to say. I won't. 
Waste time and breath telling you what I feel I've done 
something worse than murder you. I smashed you up 
when I ought to have realised that you were a man with 
a sick brain. I was a sick man myself and and couldn't 
think clearly. I just heard poor old Wickie scream well, 
we won't go into that it's too beastly. But I've just 
come to tell you that I'm not going to give myself up to 
what some people would call justice. That's what I 
meant to do at first but I see now that it was sentimen- 
tality and cowardice the sort of thing that drives some 
people to confess a kind of shaking off one's burden of 
responsibility on to some one else. I'm rambling it's so 
infernally difficult to keep one's thoughts clear." He passed 
his tongue over his cracked lips. Boucieault's eyes closed 
for an instant. " Can you understand what I'm saying ? " 
The eyes opened again to their full stare and Tristram went 
on more clearly. " Of course, it's possible you may get 
all right or even be able to denounce me without that. I 
shan't deny anything. I shall be jolly glad, I dare say. 



142 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

But until then I'm going on with my work. We're men, 
Boucicault and I won't mirice matters you've smashed 
up a good many lives in your time men in the regiment, 
your wife, Anne and you and I have smashed each other - 
but that's the end of it. You may or you may not believe 
me but I'm not going to be dragged into disgrace if I 
can help it for my mother's sake. She's old very old 
she can't last long she's had a rotten time, and the last 
year or two well, I shall protect them with all my 
strength." He straightened his shoulders as a man does 
who, groping through darkness, suddenly sees his way 
clear. " That's what I conceive to be my duty. You 
hate me, of course, but you're clever enough to know the 
sort of man I am and you know quite well that whether 
I'm punished or not, I've done for myself. That ought to 
satisfy you for the present." He got up. " So I'm going 
back to my work. I don't know whether you'll under- 
stand what I mean when I say that I'm going to try and 
balance the misery you and I have brought into this world 
I've got your responsibilities as well as my own to shoulder 
because I've smashed your chance of making good. And 
there's something else if it lies in human power I'll set 
you on your feet again. If I succeed I shall tell my 
mother the truth, and I think somehow that then she will 
feel differently about it it won't be quite the same sort 
of failure. Of course you'll want other doctors you 
mayn't trust me but no one else will fight for you as I 
shall. Give me some sign. If you trust me close your 
eyes once. I shall understand." 

In the long silence which followed the two men held 
each other in a gaze so ardent, so penetrating that it was 
like the physical grappling of wrestlers, one of whom at 
least knew no pity. The sweat of weakness and recent 
effort showed itself on Tristram's forehead, but his features 
wore a weary serenity. 

Presently a change showed itself on Boucicault's face. 
There was a shadow at the corners of his stiff, powerless 
lips a kind of smile, malicious, calculating, ironic. His 
eyes closed once. 

Tristram nodded. 

" That's all I have to say, then." 

He made his way from the bungalow, circuiting the 
front verandah where he guessed Mrs. JJowiViiult would 
wait for him, to the compound gates. There Sigrid Fersen 



TRISTRAM CHOOSES HIS ROAD 143 

with the Rajah's dog-cart awaited him. She bent towards 
him, her face white with anger. 

"How could you, Major Tristram! I guessed some- 
how you had come here and followed you. How could you 
do it ? " 

" I had to," he. answered. He ' f came up to the step of 
the cart, trying to support himself against the shaft un- 
seen by her. " I had to," he repeated. 

"A professional visit, I suppose ? " she flashed scorn- 
fully. 

" In a sort of way yes." 

" Well, anyhow try and climb if you've the strength. 
I'll drive you back to bed." 

He looked up at her and she frowned and bit her under 
lip to keep back an exclamation. 

" Please will you do something for me ? " 

" What is it, you madman ? " 

" Drive me to Heerut." 

" Heerut are you really insane ? Do you want to 
die ? " 

He smiled wistfully. 

" Oh, Lord, no I've jolly well got to live. But I'm 
going back to work." 

" You can't it's absurd I won't be responsible." 

" You wouldn't be responsible," he interrupted earnestly. 
" Listen I've got to go there are my poor beggars in 
quarantine all sorts of things believe me, it's urgent, 
it must be if you don't* help me, I shall walk or get some 
one else." 

" You know that Ayeshi has gone gone to Calcutta." 

He averted his face. 

" Yes Compton told' me." 

" And Wickie disappeared. You'll be all alone." 

" Yes," he agreed simply. 

She bent a little lower. She was smiling as one does at 
an obstinate, unhappy child. 

" In a few weeks I may have to leave Gaya. My time 
is almost up. Are you flying from me ? " 

He remained patiently, doggedly silent, and she sighed 
and drew back. 

" Kismet ! So you make Fate for us both. I won't try 
to thwart you. I will take you to Heerut. But I make 
one stipulation." 

" Yes ? " 



144 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" It is that before I leave Gaya we spend one day to- 
gether a kind of farewell picnic a high and solemn feast 
to the end of all things. It is to be where and when I 
want it. Do you promise ? " - 

He did not answer. He was still looking away from her 
down the white line of dusty road which wound past the 
clustered barracks. A far-off, long-drawn-out bugle-call 
fluttered out on to the hot stillness. She looked down and 
saw his hand clenched on the splashboard, and the impatient 
mockery faded from her lips. 

" I won't make any stipulation. You are too ill to be 
bargained with. And, after all, it lies in my power to 
seek you out when I choose as I have done before "- 
her eyes became veiled and intent " in and out of the 
ship's ghosts over the water dancing over the grey roofs 
of the world " 

He frowned perplexedly, following her words through a 
labyrinth of memory and fancy- and finding no end. 

" Is that a quotation ? " 

" A sort of one " 

"It seems to express something -" He paused, 

meditating. The bugle sounded again, louder and more 
metallic, and now in answer came the subdued hurrying 
of feet, the jangle of steel. Suddenly he faced her, fiercely, 
almost violently, like a man throwing off an obsessing 
weakness. There was a fire of energy in the throw-back of 
his great shoulders, in the clear passionate desire of his 
regard. She faltered under it. It swept her from her 
light fantastic dominion over him into deep, fast-flowing 
waters 'which engulfed her, stupefied her, shook her calm 
supremacy to its foundations. She did not know what 
had happened what had wrought the change in him. 
He who had fought grimly and knowingly with the realism 
in the lives of others had somehow come to grips with 
reality in his own. He had ceased to weave dreams. It 
waq not as a vision and a visionary that they faced each 
other, but as a man and a woman. A flash of lightning 
had burst through the unsubstantial mists of their relation- 
ship. And behind the figure of the dreaming Stoic there 
loomed the stark, primeval human being, vital, virile, 
armed with all the white, burning power of unsoiled, sternly 
guarded passions. They flared in his blue e}^es which held 
hei.s for the first time with full recognition, with a daring, 
reckless revelation of their own existence. And though 



TRISTRAM CHOOSES HIS ROAD 145 

inwardly she faltered, her gaze was as steady as his own. 
She dared not turn from him. She felt that if she did she 
would come face to face with herself as fiercely, as terribly 
awakened. 

They spoke very quietly, very naturally to one another. 

" I'll promise," he said. " A last day no one could 
grudge it me ? " 

" No one." She held out her hand to him and it did not 
tremble. " Come, now I will drive you to Heerut." 



CHAPTER XV 

THE WEAVERS 

BARCLAY rode past the Boucicaults' bungalow on the 
afternoon when Mrs. Boucicault gave her garden 
party in honour of the regiment's new commander 
and his wife. It was a very grand function, and rather 
gruesome if one stopped to think what lay inert and listen- 
ing in a room somewhere at the. back, but to stop and think 
was a mental pastime in which no one in Gaya indulged 
willingly. Mrs. Boucicault had been right. Gaya was 
not in the least outraged. It was not even very upset 
when it found that without a word of farewell Anne had 
gone south to Trichy to pay her father's people a long 
visit. In its casual, easy-going way, Gaya understood 
both points of view and sympathised. 

The regimental band was playing a waltz and Barclay 
drew in his slender- limbed thoroughbred to listen. A 
little band of natives with a saffron-robed Sadhu in their 
midst coming round a bend of the white road, he drew out 
a gold case from his pocket and selected and lit a cigarette 
with an exaggerated deliberation. The procession drew 
on one side and the leader saluted the Sahib respectfully. 
Barclay took the salute with a curt, indifferent nod, but 
something in the episode must have changed the nature of 
his thoughts. He threw a glance towards the garden, 
walled from his view by a circle of high palms, and his 
black eyes were alight with a childish satisfaction. He 
heard voices intermingle with the music and two young 
men in immaculate tennis-clothes lounged out of the com- 
pound gates. They looked after the procession, and one 
of them laughed. 

. " It's nothing you'll soon get fed up with that native 
stuff. When you've seen the festival at Heerut next week 

146 



THE WEAVERS 147 

you won't want another dose for years these sort of fellows 
with their humbugging old fakir will be pouring in till the 
place is like an ant-heap. Talk about self-governing India 
oh, Lord!" 

Barclay, a notable figure enough on his beautiful mare, 
stood not three yards away from the speaker, yet he appeared 
to pass unnoticed. Neither of the two looked at him. 
He drove his spurs into the animal's silken sides, curbing 
her at the same instant with an iron hand, and set her at 
a nervous, tortured canter down the road. His tight 
mouth under the black moustache was curved with a de- 
liberate pleasure as he felt her sweat and tremble under his 
mastery. He kept her at the pace for a mile through the 
blaze of sun which poured down upon the unsheltered plain 
and then, satiated, allowed her to drop to a quivering, 
resentful walk. 

He reached the bridge-head half an hour before sunset. 
A D.P.W. man with a party of assistants was taking 
soundings for the new traffic bridge which was to link up 
Gaya and the administrative centre three hundred miles 
away with the never-ending chain of villages of which 
Heerut was the first and largest. He had had a bad after- 
noon of it with Mother Ganges, and he stared savagely at 
Barclay, who drew rein. 

" Getting on ? " the latjter asked. 

" Damnably. The river's never the same two days 
running." 

Barclay showed his white teeth in a smile. 

" That's her speciality. You'll never build that bridge." 

" Won't I ? " 

" The natives have a superstition against it. No white 
man will ever bridge the Holy Place. This is the Holy 
Place, you know the spot where the sacred serpents come 
down from the jungle and take refreshment." He spoke 
with much the indqlent amusement of the two young men 
outside the Boucicaults' compound. He aped it deliber- 
ately, not knowing whence. cp-me his smarting satisf action. 
The Englishman irtopped a moist and irate forehead. 

" No, I didn't know," he snapped. " I'm not a native. 
I haven't got any damned superstitions. Perhaps you'd 
like to have a shot at it." 

Barclay made no answer. The smile passed from his 
lips. He sat his horse motionlessly, staring at the faintly 
swaying native bridge in front of him. The Englishman, 



148 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

unconscious of his own success, stumped off angrily to- 
wards a fresh point of vantage. 

Presently Barclay crossed to the farther side of the river, 
turning his horse from the path, rode through the long 
grasses to the temple, and here, within a few feet of the 
carved gateway, he dismounted, and, tossing the reins over 
the battered post which was all that marked the old Path of 
Auspiciousness, he strolled through into the Manderpam. 
The place was empty. Its usual inhabitant had vanished. 
Barclay stood a moment, looking about him with the 
-detached, unfeeling interest of a tourist. The altitude was 
deliberate, as were all his actions. He was setting the gulf 
of race and tradition between himself and this austerely 
sensuous beauty. He held himself an alien, walking idly, 
but with loud steps over the grass grown stones, humming 
to himself, and beating time with his crop against his 
riding-boots. But the silence, heavy with old dreams and 
drowsy, bygone meditations, the stately avenue of roofless 
pillars, daunted him. He came to a halt in the entrance to 
the antarila and stared round furtively, peering into the 
purple tinted shadows, listening as to a sound which troubled 
and escaped him. A little red-cheeked bulbul fluttered 
from its nest high overhead on the summit of the crumbling 
walls, and he watched its flight through the oblique bars 
of alternate light and shadow with a curious anxiety. It 
was as though he sought to rivet his attention on something 
trivial, so that he should not have to face whatever lay be- 
neath the surface. The bulbul came to rest in some hidden 
rock among the deep-cut, fantastic reliefs of the frieze, and 
the soft, tender beating of its wings, like the last throb of 
a dying pulse, passed under the weight of a brooding, 
deathlike silence. Barclay turned and went noisily into 
the antarila. But here his footsteps rang with a different 
and startling resonance. They echoed among the broad, 
stunted pillars and died sullenly in a gloom which shrouded 
the place in unfathomable dimensions. Barclay, raising 
his hand instinctively, touched the roof, but its dank 
solidity could not remove the impression of a monstrous 
nightfall, of a sky black and unlit, stretching up into in- 
finity. On either hand, his knowledge might have told 
him, were thick walls, but they too carried no conviction, 
and the darkness went on and on in narrow, endless passages 
leading down into the bowels of an unholy my,- 
The faint gleam of light in front of him, the soft gold of the 



9 THE WEAVERS 149 

courtyard behind, were like ghosts, painted luminously on 
the solid blackness, themselves bringing no light, no relief . 

Barclay stopped, and, with his insolent deliberation, lit 
a cigarette, afterwards holding the match overhead. He 
saw that his hand shook and the tiny flame quivered an 
instant and went out as though a secret breath had blown 
against it. Barclay cursed and bit his 'teeth together as 
the echo gibed at him from its invisible lurking-place, and 
then went on, hushing his footsteps so that they should 
not follow him. In the Holy of Holies there was neither 
light nor darkness, but a haze which at once hid and revealed 
all things. It was like a pall shrouding the sun, or a gauzy, 
luminous veil of sunshine thrown over nightfall. It came 
filtering down from the great sun-window which, high over- 
head in the slender Sikhara, looked out eastwards whence 
at daybreak Laksmi, surrounded with the golden-haired 
divas of morning, rises up to meet Vishnu, who watches for 
her. It fell softly on the gigantic, monstrous effigy of 
Vishnu himself, cross-legged on his altar, in either hand a 
writhing serpent, his black eyes fixed in cruel, aloof con- 
templation on an existence which knew neither joy nor 
sorrow, neither humanity nor its de^ir^es and prayers. As 
in the old days when men and women had passed wor- 
shipping through his temple, so now that the worshippers 
were still and the courtyard empty and his altar bare of 
offerings, he remained indifferent and omnipotent. Men, 
generations, and religions pass, the temple crumbles. 
But so long as death remains, so long are the gods immortal. 
The knowledge of its immortality was graven into the 
image's mocking mouth, into the sightless, all-seeing eyes. 

Barclay stood with one foot on the altar steps, and 
stared up into the frigid face and blew rings of smoke into 
the wide, cruel nostrils. There was more than a sightseer's 
insolent disregard in the action. It was a sneer and a 
defiance. He spat on the altar-step. But when a hand 
striking invisibly out of the darkness sent him staggering 
to the wall he screamed like a child whose nerve has 
snapped suddenly under a long, agonising tension. His 
mouth was open, changing the character of his whole face. 
The cigarette had fallen and lay like a tiny burning eye on 
the stone flags. Vahana, the Sadhu, ground his heel upon 
it. Whether he had been kneeling in the shadow or 
whether he had crept after the interloper could not be 
told. Gaunt and naked, the bones of his chest and ribs 



150 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

starting out under the straining flesh, the wild grey hair 
tossed back from his face, he sprang up before the idol, 
protecting it with outstretched arms whose long, attenuated 
lines flung the shadow of a huge cross on the wall beyond. 

Neither man spoke. Barclay bent down and picked up 
his helmet, which had been knocked off, and, obeying the 
Fakir's imperative gesture, went out of the Holy of Holies 
through the priests' place into the columned, sun-lit outer 
court. There he laughed. 

" You're a pretty custodian," he said loudly in English. 
" Enough to frighten a harmless globe-trotter out of his 
five senses. What sort of tip do you expect after that ? 
Or does one pay extra for the thrill ? " 

There was no answer. Vahana went past him and 
squatted down in his accustomed place by the gateway. 
The fierce outburst was over, and he seemed to have for- 
gotten Barclay's -presence. The latter stood beside him, 
propping his shoulders against the lintel, and searched 
fumblingly for his cigarette case. 

" I suppose it's allowed here, eh ? You should put up 
a notice, ' No smoking.' Oh, I forgot a vow of eternal 
silence is your speciality, isn't it ? You needn't keep it 
up with me. I shan't tell." He laughed again. "You 
old humbug ! I could tell a tale if I chose. What about 
that evening I caught you sneaking out of Gaya ? Been 
having a compensating orgy, no doubt." 

The Fakir shot a rapid upward glance which Barclay 
caught with a grunt of satisfaction. 

" Well, you understand English, anyhow, which is a good 
thing because I want a word with you." 

He lit his cigarette deliberately, and, folding his arms, 
surveyed the wide stretch of plain before him. Save for 
the high grass, it was barren to the river edge, but beyond 
that broad, swift-flowing barrier it became rich with pasture 
and golden harvest. Barclay's eyes narrowed at the still 
ardent sunlight, but beneath the heavy, drooping lids there 
was a gleam of some smouldering passion, triumph resent- 
ment. 

" Not much of that crop that isn't mine," he said loudly. 
" They needn't call me Sahib not yet if they don't want 
to but I'm lord here, for all that. I've got the whip 
hand, and that's what matters." 

The Fakir paid no heed to an outburst which was indeed 
not in tended for him. He bent forward from the hips 



THE WEAVERS 151 

and whistled softly, on one monotonous note, the while 
swaying from left to right with rhythmic precision. In a 
minute the tangled growth which, like the first low waters 
of an incoming tide, spread out from the jungle and lapped 
the temple walls, rustled, parted, and a black glistening 
body writhed out into the sunshine. There it paused, 
listening, its arrow-shaped head lifted out of the tight 
coils, and moving to the measure of its enchanter. Bar- 
clay looked down and started and then laughed. 

" Practising for the great show, eh ? I suppose it'll 
keep the old story going the jungle of serpents. Lord, 
how you must hate us, with our education and uplifting of 
the masses. One of these days I'll clear the jungle and 
build a factory, and you can go out of business. That 
old trick ! " 

Still laughing, he crouched down on his heels and hissed 
gently, his black eyes intent on the reptile's poised and 
swaying body. Vahana continued to whistle. They had 
entered into a competition which to Barclay was a mere 
jest. But the serpent had grown still, attentive, its ugly 
head drawn back in an attitude of cold deliberation. From 
time to tune its lithe, evilly forked tongue shot out and 
then an expression seemed to dawn on the flat face a kind 
of satanic pleasure. Then, suddenly, as though arrived at 
a decision, it uncoiled and came gliding towards Barclay. 
Barclay no longer called to it. His eyes were clouded and 
stupid-looking. He glanced up at Vahana and found that 
he was being watched. Between the old man and the un- 
cannily moving adder there had developed an affinity. 
The Fakir's face seemed to have narrow.ed and sharpened; 
From the wide cheek-bones down to the chin there were two 
straight converging lines between which ran the cruel curve 
of the mouth. The eyes were hard and dead as a basilisk's. 
But, like the reptile's, they expressed something a sinister 
amusement, a soulless, ageless wisdom. 

Barclay made a fumbling gesture. 

" Look here, I didn't know call the brute off I never 
tried " He was stuttering. The defiant arrogance 
had gone out of him. He had become curiously afraid. 
Vahana whistled again, and within a foot of Barclay the 
adder recoiled, hissing resentfully, and swung to one side. 
Vahana held out his wrist and the sinuous body twisted 
itself about him in a monstrous bracelet. Barclay watched, 
with a sick fascination. His fear had been neither physical 



152 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

nor passing. In some odd way the incident had shattered 
his self-assurance, even his seu-control. 

" I didn't know " he began again. " It must just 

have been chance. I had never tried " 

His voice failed, and died into a shaken silence. The 
reptile, lying with its head on the back of Vahana's fleshless 
hand, held the Eurasian in the malevolent circle of its 
watchfulness. Its beady, unflinching eyes neither appeared 
to move nor to be fixed on any definite object, yet when 
Barclay shifted his position they did not leave his face. 
Thus they remained, staring atTeach other. Vahana had 
sunk into an apparent apathy of meditation. But it was 
no more than an appearance. Between the three there 
was now a living, feverish communication. 

Barclay roused himself at last. 

" Look here I didn't come here for this tomfoolery. 
Look^at this. It was my mother's. Some one Lalloo the 
Kara told me a tale about it. Said it belonged to to 
your wife. I want to know. I want to know who the devil 
I am. If it's true then I shall know." 

Vahana glanced at the gold circlet held out towards him. 
The adder hissed furiously and he whistled it back to its 
sluggish content. But he had nodded in assent. Barclay 
drew his breath between his teeth. 

" So that much was true. I've got to think this out. 
I'm not your son. I've good English blood in my veins, 
I've known that since I was a kid. If it was Tristram. 

senior ' He stopped. Vahana had lifted his head, 

and the change in him struck Barclay silent for a moment. 
Then, gathering his determination, he added rapidly, 
scarcely above a whisper " whom you murdered." 

But it seemed that the Fakir had not heard, or that if 
he had heard the words reached him only as an echo, a 
shadow of something terrible and actual. The change in 
him was indefinable. He had scarcely moved. Yet Bar- 
clay stared at him stupidly, and a moment looked round 
to follow the gaze of the fierce expressionless eyes. Then 
he, too*, became silent. 

A horseman rode along the river-bank. Evidently he 
had come some distance, for the nose of his amazingly lean 
steed grazed the ground and he himself hung in the saddle. 
As he passed he turned his head towards the temple, but 
either the sun, setting with long upward striking rays 
behind the hills, blinded him, or the watchers were too well 



THE WEAVERS 153 

hidden in the shadow of the gateway. He did not see them, 
and, coaxing the dejected quadruped to a canter, dis- 
appeared presently in the direction of Heemt. 

" Tristram Sahib by the grace of God ! " Barclay mut- 
tered. " Tristram Sahib ! " He repeated the name, 
pressing into it a restrained bitterness which suddenly 
burst from him in a wild incoherent deluge. " Sahib 
Sahib ! Good God and what am I with blood as good 
as his his blood Meester Barclay, eh ? damn him 
damn them all. What right has he got to treat me like 
dirt or any of them ? What right ? Aren't I one of 
them ? Have I got to pay for their low, mean sins their 
little, back-door intrigues ? I'm English too it's their law 
why don't they keep to their laws, damn them " 

His voice quivered. He broke down pitiably. It was 
as though a garment which he held jealously about him 
had been torn from him and with it his manhood, his 
mincing, insolent, yet timorous pride. As he crouched 
there, the tears of mortification and rage on his cheeks, 
he underwent a mysterious change. The over-perfect 
English clothes no longer disguised him. They had become 
grotesque. 

Vahana looked at him, looked long and intently, and then 
at the bracelet lying between them. He touched Barclay 
on the arm, and with his forefinger began to write in the 
thick dust. 



CHAPTER XVI 



IN the belt of fertile land about Heerut the work of 
irrigation for the Khareef had already begun. Half- 
naked men and women in gay-coloured chudders 
laboured in the slanting ruts which stretched down from 
the river and criss-crossed over the wide fields in a maze 
of intricate, cunningly calculated lines. They worked in 
complete silence, like a colony of ants, hurrying back- 
wards and forwards, their lean, fragile-looking bodies bent 
under crushing burdens of freshly turned earth, their faces 
set in patient acceptance. So much .depended on the 
Khareef a meagre sufficiency or a dearth that was always 
complete an avalanche of famine sweeping whole com- 
munities from existence, Not that life or death was of 
much significance. They fought for life half instinctively, 
half because the Sahibs willed it so. It was a hard business 
either way, and that much they realised dimly. 

Tristram drew rein to watch them. Be3'ond the river 
the white ungarnered corn lay in its silver fields awaiting 
its long-delayed hour. He remembered how in the winter 
months all Heerut had laboured at its irrigation even as 
they laboured now thinking of the harvest. And now 
the harvest was there and had begun to rot. Disease and 
the dreaded, docilely accepted quarantine had stayed the 
hands which should have gathered it. Now those who 
survived turned to the more pressing task to the crumbling 
canals iJiich were to bring life to the summer rice-crop. 
What was lost was lost. The past was past ; but the grim, 
forbidding shadow of the future remained alwa\ 

Therein lay the tragedy of the unresting, patient figures 
the labour that was so often foredoomed to fruitlessness, 
the struggle against an enemy who could never be wholly 
vanquished, the hope of a victory that could never be more 

154 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 155 

than a breathing-space, a mere margin of life. But the 
greater tragedy was their patience, their passive acceptance 
of life as suffering. 

It was that tragedy which Tristram saw as he watched 
them. For him it blotted out what was lovely and full of 
promise in the scene the gay colours, the rich, deep 
sunlight on the fruitful fields, the semblance of prosperity. 
It made his greeting to those who passed him somewhat 
grim and less cheery than was its wont. The men and 
women nodded to him and smiled gravely in return. 
There was no formal, deferential salutation such as the 
Burra Sahib would have expected and received. He was 
less and greater than "any of the Sahibs who ruled their 
destinies, and they merely smiled at him. No other man 
was to them what he had become. Rough and ready of 
tongue, imperious sometimes, occasionally ruthless, he 
yet was never the representative of a ruling race. Other 
Sahibs they feared and worshipped the great warriors, 
the myth figures of the rulers beyond the unknown, but 
Tristram was the man of their daily lives, of their great 
sorrows and little happinesses, the man who sat under the 
council- tree at night and listened to the last village scandal, 
or to some wonderful tale told by the village story-teller, 
who tracked his way down the contaminated stream of 
their faith to its pure source and drank with them. And 
they who had known little of pity and less of love came 
through him to a dim. faltering knowledge. 

Through the busy stillness there sounded a shrill trumpet- 
ing and the rustle and crack of the high grasses before 
swift and headlong passage of an elephant. Tristram 
drew Arabella to one side. Already in the distance he 
had seen the glitter and flash of the R-ajah's gaudy howdah, 
and was not unprepared for the procession which now bore 
down towards the river. There were five elephants in 
all, the first showily caparisoned with a Mahout in splendid 
livery, the others more seriously equipped for the hunt. 
Rasaldu and his guest, the new Colonel, whose face was 
overshadowed by his helmet, rode in the first, and, seeing 
Tristram, nodded with a cheerful condescension and held 
up two fat fingers to indicate the success of their expedi- 
tion. Then the procession rumbled past like a noisy, gor- 
geous carnival of life leaving a cloud of sullen dust and the 
grey bed-rock of reality. 

An old man who had taken refuge under Arabella's lee 
6 



156 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

put up a palsied hand and pointed in fierce scorn after the 
disappearing Rajah. 

" His father a cowherd " he stammered. " His 

father served mine and betrayed him to the English." 

Tristram nodded. 

" And the Rajah who then was ? " 

" Dead, Sahib/' 

" He left no heirs ? " 

The sunken eyes were lifted for a moment. 

" Sahib, therQ are things we do not even whisper among 
ourselves." Then his expression changed. It was as 
though a vizor had dropped over his shrivelled features. 
With bowed h -ad he shuffled towards a group of Villagers 
who had gathered farther off, and Tristram, becoming 
uncomfortably aware of a third presence, turned in his 
saddle. He saw then that, under cover of the procession's 
passing, he had been overtaken by a second horseman whose 
delicately built Arab showed traces of hard and recent 
galloping. The rider lifted his brown hand in formal 
salutation. 

" I was loafing round the temple when I saw you pass, 
Major," he said easily. " It occurred to me that our long 
planned interview might take place now and here. Are 
you agreeable ? " 

" If you wish it." 

" May I ride with you ? " 

" Are you going to Heerut ? " 

Barclay showed his white teeth in a brief smile. 

" I hope so." 

There was a moment of uncertainty on Tristram's side. 
He stroked Arabella's long neck thoughtfully. 

" Still, I think we'd better say what we want to say now. 
Your mare looks pretty winded mine's all in. It won't 
hurt to breathe them both." 

" As you like," Barclay answered. His manner was 
touched with a certain tremulousness which might have 
resulted from his rash gallop through the treacherous grass. 
But otherwise there was no trace of the man who had 
broken down at the temple gateway. " Look here," he 
began abruptly, " do you think you're playing the game, 
Major Tristram ? What's your idea ? What have I 
done to you ? We don't need to beat about the bush. 
I know quite well whom I'm up against. I tell you straight 
I've got a short way with people who oppose me I 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 157 

smash them. But I don't smash till I've tried reason. 
Why don't you let my affairs alone ? " 

Tristram stirred impatiently in his saddle. 

" I'm not interested in your affairs, Mr. Barclay, except 
in so far as they concern my friends." 

" Friends ! " Barclay laughed out with a forced good- 
humour. " And what have I done to your friends, pray ? 
Look around you. Look at these rotten crops. Well, 
I've lent good money on these crops lent it to your 
precious proteges. When am I going to see my money 
back ? " 

" When you want to," Tristram returned. " Next harvest, 
or as soon as the poor devils get a cow they can call their 
own and fifty per cent, into the bargain." 

Barclay shrugged his shoulders. 

" Fifty per cent, covers the risks no more." 

" Then it's a pity you bother yourself." 

" That's your idea of humour, no doubt, Major. But 
I'm dead serious. I know what you've done. You've 
set these people against me. You've used your influence 
to prevent my doing business with them. I've no doubt 
you used your power to terrify them." 

Tristram laughed gaily. 

" I did that," he admitted. " I believe they think you're 
the devil himself." 

" And you think that's fair ? What right had you ? " 

" I don't care to see people paying fifty per cent, 
interest." 

" Very well. But what's going to happen ? You're so 
damned thoughtful for your friends perhaps you'll tell me 
what's going to happen to them. Those weavers at 
Heerut and Bjura and all round they're smashed. No 
one will touch their stuff for a year at least. Are they going 
to starve or are you going to advance them money out 
of your screw ? " 

Tristram looked up, his blue eyes resting calmly and 
even with a certain amusement on the other's dark and 
bitter face. 

" In a sort of way at least I'm getting the Government 
to take a hand." 

" You you did that ? " 

" I'm trying to. You're quite right. I've done all I 
can to keep you and your agents out. I'm a doctor, and 
the material conditions of my people concern me. I've 



158 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

seen some of your business methods, and I think you're 
unhealthy, Mr. Barclay." 

Barclay contained himself with a desperate effort. 

" My word, that may be truer than you think. I'm 
unhealthy to people who get in my way. Look here, Major 
Tristram I don't want to use the screw after all, we're 
Englishmen in a foreign country, and it's our infernal duty 
to hang together but I won't be kicked out of things like 
that. I give you fair warning to leave my preserves alone, 
and I'll tell you why. I know things I know something 

that would " He stopped short. Tristram's eyes were 

still on his face. They had neither flickered nor lost their 
quizzical good-humour. 

" Well, jf^hat do you know ? It's rather funny, but we 
both seem to have found out something detrimental about 
each other. For instance, though this is only our second 
meeting, I'm convinced that j r ou're a thorough-paced 
blackguard, Mr. Barclay." 

" That may be. My father was one." 

" I'm sorry." 

" You have good reason to be sorry." His lips were 
quivering. He burst out ungovernably. " You have 
your share in him." 

" Mr. Barclay " 

" Tristram that's what my name should be. Your 
father was mine " 

" Is that your attack, then ? " 

Barclay put up his hand as though to hide his unsteady 
mouth. 

"No," he said. "It is not. But it is the truth. I 
can prove it. I guessed it some time back, but I wasn't 
certain. Your our father, lived in my bungalow. It was 
there he was murdered he and my mother by her hus- 
band. How much you know " 

"I didn't know that," Tristram put in quietly. He 
looked away from Barclay, and the latter, Matching him 
with a fevered anxiety, saw that the fine hand lying on 
Arabella's neck had lost its absolute steadiness. " You 
must prove it." 

" I can do so." 

"If it's true then I'm sorry sorry I spoke as I did. 
You've had the beastliest luck I beg your pardon." 

He lifted his head nirain. The while gravity of his face 
lent the rather boyish words a sincerity which Barclay 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 159 

recognised with an inward faltering of his anger. For a 
vivid instant the two men touched spiritually,, or met on 
some common ground of emotion then broke apart. 

" I don't want pity," Barclay exclaimed childishly, 
bitterly. 

" I didn't offer you pity. Or if I did I meant it for us 
both. It's not as bad but I was rather proud of my 
father. My mother we'll leave that out. And, anyhow 
I suppose it's a small thing compared to what he did to 
you. It was a pitiless thing to do." He hesitated, and 
then added, with a shyness which sat quaintly enough on 
his big manhood : "I suppose we're brothers, then ? " 

Barclay drew back from the outstretched hand. A mad 
impulse had almost driven him to grasp it and kiss it, but 
he crushed it under, shivering from head to foot in the 
violence of the revulsion. 

" So you acknowledge the relationship ? " 

" Why shouldn't I ? " 

' ' We'd better look the thing in the face . I'm an Eurasian, 
and illegitimate at that. Are you going to own me before 
your friends ? " 

" Yes. I don't care what you are by circumstance. 
Illegitimacy and race are nothing to me. A man's a man." 

"That's not the law," Barclay returned sneeringly. 

" And I don't care a fig for the law either/' Tristram said 
with a faint smile. 

Barclay was silent. A dull anger was kindling in him. 
It was a deeper, more dangerous passion than that which 
had driven him to strike before he had intended. It had 
its roots in their fundamental antagonism of character as 
it revealed itself now, in Barclay's failure to strike hatred 
out of a man he hated. For a moment whatever was fine 
in him had flashed up in response to Tristram's simple 
humanity, but that was gone, and there remained nothing 
but the galling recognition of an inferiority which was not 
that of race or circumstance. And with that recognition 
the little light he had within him went out. 

"That's all very well," he said at last, "but it's just 
talk. It won't help me. If you did recognise me, neither 
of us would get anything out of it. I should have to leave 
Gaya, and you'd get into trouble. That's not my game. 
The only brotherly act I ask of you is to leave me alone." 

" I have told you already I don't want to interfere. 
I've got to." 



160 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Barclay gnawed at his thick under-lip, holding himself 
in, calculating. 

" Look here," he began again, " I guess I've inherited 
something from my mother besides my infernal colour a 
sort of instinct a knowledge of people. That night I 
met you at Sigrid Fersen's I found out something about you. 
I knew what was going oh in you though you didn't know 
it yourself. I know what's wrong with you now. Well, 
I'll do the brotherly first. If you treat me fairly, you'll 
have nothing to fear from me and besides that, I'll give 
you the straight tip I know something of Sigrid Fersen. 
She wants the cream of life it's a sort of religion with her. 
In London there wasn't a man or woman who could stand 
up to her in magnificence. There were the wildest stories 
told about her, and they were truer than most stories. She 
wouldn't stand this sort of > thing not if she were dying 
of love for you. Take my word for it you'll want 
money any amount of it then you'll stand a chance 
with her " 

Tristram, urged by a sudden disgust, and an intolerable 
unrest, turned Arabella's head and touched her to a walk. 
But Barclay was beside him, leaning towards him, talking 
rapidly. 

" Well, you can have money, Tristram " and now he 
was using the Christian name with a deliberate purpose 
" you can have as much as you need. I tell you this 
country is like an unworked mine. I'm going to work it. 
I'm going to be as rich and powerful as the pioneers in 
South Africa. These Anglo-Indian officials treat India as 
though it was a sort of toy a kind of game against heavy 
odds. There isn't a business man among them. I'm a 
business man. And I'll take you into partnership a 
sleeping partner with a quarter share and nothing to do 
but to sleep hard. I swear to you that in a year or two 
you can marry any one you please I tell you she's hard 

n-r^_" 

Tristram pulled Arabella to a standstill. 

" Don't talk like that," he blazed out. " I don't want 
to think you a scoundrel. If there is any blood common 
to us both I don't want to loathe it. You've had rough 
luck it doesn't need to make you a cad." 

" Doesn't it ? I'm not so sure. What do you expect 
me to do ? " 

' Throw up this slave-driving business. I'll stand by 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 161 

you. I'll see you through, Barclay whatever one man 
can do for another I will do " 

" Will you ? Will you come and live with me in Calcutta 
with my people the only people who won't treat me 
as though I were a nasty cross betwe.cn a human being and 
an animal blowsy, feckless, shiftless outcasts will you ? 
Well, you might you're credited with queer things of 
that sort, but it would do for you. Your white blood 
wouldn't stand it. Nor will mine. I've got to get away 
from them. It's our father in me. But there's nowhere 
for me to go. I've got to make my world make it in 
blood and sweat if needs must. When I've money enough 
to buy up Gaya, Gaya will accept me fast enough." 

Tristram shook his head. 

"" You said just now that we behaved as though we were 
playing a big game," he said. " You may be right. And 
good sportsmen can't be bought." 

" Can't they ? Well, we'll see. Meantime, if there's a 
word of sincerity in all you've said either come in with me 
or keep out of my way. I can make you a rich man, Tris- 
tram ; don't forget that." 

" You're asking me to visit the sins of your father and 
mine on to thousands of these luckless people." 

" Put it that way if you like. I'm going forward, what- 
ever you do." 

" Then I shall fight you with every atom of influence and 
power I have." 

Barclay tore at his horse's mouth, dragging the animal 
round on its haunches so that he faced Tristram. Both 
men were breathing heavily as though the struggle between 
them had become a physical one. Barclay thrilled with 
a savage satisfaction as he saw that the man before him 
was as shaken as himself, black-browed, hot-eyed, with a 
mouth set like a vice behind the short beard. 

" Then I'll smash you, Tristram I've got reason enough 
to hate you without that you've got everything now 
I'll smash you I can and I wih 1 " 

Suddenly Tristram's face relaxed. He broke into a big, 
unaffected laugh. 

" We're like two villains out of old Adelphi melodrama," 
he said. " We've made each other unacceptable offers and 
threatened each other, and now I suppose it's to be a fight 
to the finish." 

Barclay nodded. The laugh had been more bitter than a 



162 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

blow. He turned his head away so that Tristram should 
not see the treacherous weakness of his mouth. Then, 
with a muttered exclamation that was half a curse, half a 
sob of ungovernable passion, he gave his trembling mare 
her head and galloped recklessly back the way he had come. 
Tristram looked after him until Arabella, of her own 
accord, resumed her patient amble towards Heerut. The 
darkness began its race over the plain and swept up the 
little shadows of the field workers as a wave sweeps up 
driftwood. They came together silently, in a weary, 
dejected stream resumed their trudge along the rough 
tracts, bearing Tristram on his gaunt steed in their midst 
like the high effigy of a god. Thus they brought him to 
the doors of his hut and there left him, each man creeping 
in the same ghostly silence to his own hovel. 

Owen Meredith was seated at Tristram's carved table 
reading by the light of an oil-lamp. Tristram had seen 
the reflection beneath the ill-fitting doorway, but first had 
settled Arabella for the night, talking cheerily to her and 
lingering over his task as though deliberately avoiding 
the moment when he should meet his unknown visitor. 
Now seeing Meredith, his face expressed something akin 
to relief. 

The two men greeted each other quietly, sincerely, but 
without effusion. They were men of equal moral rank 
but of a different spiritual race. The} 7 respected each other, 
but real intimacy was not possible between them. 

" I thought you wouldn't mind my dropping in on you 
like this," Meredith said. " I've been doing a round of 
the villages, and it was too late to go on. Besides, I was 
dog-tired. I dare say that's my real reason." He closed 
his pocket Bible as he spoke and laid his hand on it. He 
had not spoken the whole truth, but of that fact he was not 
even dimly conscious. He told himself that it was only 
right to look in on this lonely man. 

Tristram nodded absently. 

" I'm jolly glad to see you. I've got a shakedown for 
visitors. You won't mind eating off one plate, will you ? " 

" Thankful to eat anything." 

" That's good." He began to rummage in his little 
kitchen at the back of the hut and returned presently 
with the plate and some preserves. " It's not much," 
he apologised ruefully. " 1 always forget about food until 
I'm hungry. And then I want to kick myself." 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 163 

" I expect we'll manage. You're all alone now." 

" Yes. No indoor patients. It's quite queer not having 
a paw or a wing to bandage up." 

" You've never found poor Wickie." 

The man seemed to shrink a little. 

" No. I guess if the next life allows it, he's not far 
off, poor old chap. He wouldn't be happy in Paradise 
without me." 

Meredith winced. It was the more painful to him because 
Tristram was obviously quite serious. To Meredith he 
seemed like a big, unconsciously blasphemous child. 

" And Ayeshi you must miss him, too." 

" Yes." The answer sounded curt, but Meredith per- 
sisted. He had the feeling that, though Gaya's suspicions 
had been kept quiet for Tristram's sake, the latter knew 
more than he betrayed. 

" It was rather queer of him, the way he went off in 
the middle of your illness. You thought he was so 
devoted." 

" He was." Tristram spread out an old newspaper over 
the table. " You got the Rajah to subscribe for his 
education. Well, I suppose he's gone to be educated. 
It's what you wanted." 

" I didn't expect him to go when he did." 

" He had good reason. I trust Ayeshi. But what your 
education will make of him Heaven knows. A rotten, dis- 
satisfied little clerk in a Government office, I suppose. 
A hundred years ago he would have been a king." 

Meredith sighed wearily. 

" I know you resented my interference. I've got to do 
what I can in my own way, Tristram." 

" I know. But I wish you'd make Christians of our own 
people first. If you did that thoroughly, you'd find my 
villagers would come of themselves. They hear a lot about 
Christianity. They don't see much of it." 

Meredith's eyes flashed in answer. He leant forward 
across the table with his hand clenched on the black-bound 
Bible. 

" You are quite right, Tristram," he said, with restrained 
passion. " We have failed badly hitherto. We have acted 
like cowards, whispering and murmuring of our religion as 
though we were half ashamed of it. Who can believe in 
cowards ? This people has got to see Christianity as the 
Romans saw it, apparent weakness pitted against the 
6* 



164 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

majority and triumphant. They have got to see what our 
faith means to us. Out here we are the early Christians. 
We must pass through the same ordeals, we must pay the 
same price. Therein lies our only hope of salvation, for 
ourselves, for these, our brethren for whose souls we are 
responsible to God." 

" I don't know much about their souls," Tristram 
returned quietly. " I'm responsible for their bodies. It's 
quite enough. What do you mean to do ? " 

Meredith threw back his square head. There was some- 
thing vivid and dominating about his personality at that 
moment which lifted mere fanatical rhetoric to real grandeur. 
In some such spirit Luther might have flung down his 
immortal challenge. 

" Testify to my faith -before Caesar, Tristram." 

" And who is Caesar ? " 

" The people. When they go down to the river to 
worship their gods at the Feast of Siva " 

Tristram got up, pushing his food from him. 

" You must be mad," he said hotly. " What should 
we do, civilised though we are, if at Easter some Brahmin 
insulted Christ from our altar ? " 

Meredith met him without flinching. 

" Yours is the wretched toleration of our age," he said. 
"There can be no righteous toleration of lies and wicked- 
ness." 

" You know what will happen ? There'll be rioting 
bloodshed " 

" Possibly. I believe it to be necessary. I don't shrink 
from it." 

" That's good of you." Tristram ruffled his shock of 
reddish hair in a fit of angry humour. " What the rest 
of your victims feel about it doesn't matter, of course. 
Martyrs you'd call them. They wouldn't be martyrs. 
If a horde of infuriated fanatics descend on Gaya, it will 
be a slaughter stage-managed and engineered by yourself. 
You and your like would be chucked out of India, and 
serve you right. Gaya doesn't want to testify to its faith. 
I doubt if it knows what its faith is." He stalked over to 
the open door with his back to Meredith. " Well, I shall 
warn the authorities," he finished. 

There was a silence. Meredith considered his companion 
with a gradual relaxation of his intensity. He got up at 
last and laid his hand on Tristram's broad shoulder. There 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 166 

was something shy and uncertain in his manner, like a 
school-boy who has been caught in heroics. 

" You won't need to inform the authorities," he said. 
" I dare say I'm a pompous idiot. There won't be any 
slaughter. We're miles from Gaya. Their enthusiasm 
won't carry them that far. They'll duck me, and that'll 
be about the extent of it." 

Tristram looked down at the dark eager face, and, catch- 
ing the lurking humour in Meredith's eyes, laughed. 

" Oh, well, if only you and I are going to be massacred, 
it's of no consequence whatever," he said. " There, man, 
finish your supper ! " 

But he himself left his food untouched. He went over 
to a little roughly carved cabinet and produced a tobacco 
jar and an old disreputable pipe. Meredith looked away 
from him, playing absent-mindedly with the knife which 
formed Tristram's dinner-service. His pulses had begun 
to beat faster. He was dimly aware now that he had come 
to Heerut with a purpose that he had cherished secretly 
and painfully for many months past. 

" I suppose you've not seen Boucicault lately ? " he asked 
suddenly. 

Tristram did not answer at once. He seemed absorbed 
in the accurate filling of his pipe-bowl. 

" Yes," he said, at last. " I saw him to-day." 

" Any change ? " 

" None. I'm beginning to be afraid there never will be." 

" Poor Anne ! " Meredith said, scarcely above a breath. 

Tristram came over to the table and sat down on the 
edge. He lit his pipe, and Meredith, alert now for every 
guiding sign, saw that the hand with the match shook. 

" Why ' poor Anne ' ? It's been ghastly, of course 
but then, what was her life like before ? At least, there's 
no one to cow the spirit out of her. She's free." 

" You don't understand Anne. I've known her so long. 
Perhaps, as a clergyman, I had a deeper insight into her 
mind. Boucicault terrified her, but she loved him. It 
seems odd, doesn't it, but at the bottom he was a kind of 
hero to her. She thought of him as he once was Tiger 
Sahib a daring, handsome leader of men. That's what's 
uppermost in her now. Everything else is forgotten and 
forgiven. So you can see for yourself what she is suffering. 
It's the pitiableness of the man's utter helplessness in the 
face of her mother's amazing attitude " 



166 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Tristram swung himself off the table and began to pace 
the room with long, impatient strides. Meredith watched 
him unceasingly. 

" I approve of Mrs. Boucicault's attitude," Tristram said, 
in angry challenge. 

" A great many people do. They think she's well rid 
of a ruffian. But, as I've told you, Anne loved him. She 
has a rare and wonderful spirit, Tristram, and she has for- 
given. Her mother's flaunted happiness and frivolity 
were unbearable. She fled from it, and now she's longing 
for her father. She hasn't a penny of her own. It's a 
ghastly situation. The devil who did for Boucicault did 
for Anne." 

Tristram stopped short. He was staring down at his 
pipe, which had gone out. 

" You're confoundedly sure of things," he said brutally. 
" You know her so well. Why don't you marry her ? " 

"I asked her to marry me two months ago," was the 
answer. Meredith's hands were clasped on the table in 
an attitude which, but for his level voice and composed 
features, would have suggested an almost intolerable 
suffering. " She wouldn't have me, Tristram." 

" I don't wonder," with a rough laugh. " What woman 
would care to share your life or mine ? " 

"You don't understand it wasn't that. She'd be 
glad and proud to go into the desert with the man she 
loved. I wasn't the man. That's all." He was breath- 
ing thickly, arid suddenly he got up with a gesture that 
even then Tristram recognised as poignant. " My God, 
man, why don't you go in and win ? " he burst out. 

They stared at each other through a long minute of 
silence. The pipe slipped from Tristram's hand and fell 
with a crack on the hard floor. He bent down and picked 
it up. The stem was broken. He tried to piece it together 
with a sightless persistency. 

" Are you you trying to be damned funny ? " he stam- 
mered. 

" Do you think I should make a jest of a thing like 
that ? " was the fierce retort. " What I've done would 
be the action of a cad if you weren't the man I know you 
to be. It hasn't been easy you can guess that. But I 
wasn't going to see Anne's happiness break up for want 
of a little sincerity. I believed you cared. I've been 
watching you. I was almost certain to-night. I under- 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 167 

stood your principles you wouldn't ask a woman to share 
your life but I know what Anne feels she'd stick by 
you, Tristram " He faltered, the thread of his argu- 
ment lost in a sudden ugly sense of uncertainty. He saw 
Tristram's face in the shadow, and its sheer expression- 
lessness frightened him. " I suppose I've behaved like a 
fool," he said. "A man who cares as I do is liable to 
become obsessed with an idea. Forget it " 

Tristram started a little, as though awakening from a 
deep mental abstraction. He came and stood at Mere- 
dith's side, laying the fragments of the old pipe on the 
table with a mechanical care. 

" That's the only foolish thing you've said," he remarked, 
gently. "I don't believe any one ever forgets anything. 
It's just a sort of comfortable phrase You did quite right 
you clergymen have a kind of insight into things you 
you see where the shoe pinches don't worry I'm 
awfully grateful. Even now, I see what a fine thing you've 
done I shall realise it much better later on. You've lived 
up to your faith you've made me respect it. It's a case 
of the old Pagan and the early Christian. No, I'm not 
jeering. I'm in deadly earnest. There, turn in and go 
to sleep. I shan't want my bunk to-night. I've got to 
think things out get clear with myself. So many things 
have been sprung on me I've got to be alone. But don't 
worry. You've done the right thing. Good night." 

He held out his hand, and now it was quite steady. 
Meredith took it and wondered at the strength of it. In 
the dull, bitter reaction from sacrifice, he visualised the 
fervour of Tristram's happiness. 

" Good night. Don't let Anne guess " 

" Never on my word." 

He went out. The night was dark and oppressive. A 
hush of exhaustion hung over the village. Afar off a 
jackal howled dismally, and was answered nearer by a 
prowling pariah dog. Tristram crossed the deep gutter 
which lined the uneven roadway. Though he could soe 
nothing, he knew every stone, every turn ; he could have 
named the invisible huts and their owners as he passed 
them. The pariah dog came snuffling round his heels, 
and he threw it a crust which it was his habit to carry in 
his pocket for the starving strays of the village. He 
heard the snap of its famished teeth, and a hurried scamper 
through the darkness. 



168 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

At the cross-roads a breeze came down from the west. 
It rustled through the mysterious, never-silent leaves of 
the council-tree. It seemed to him that their whisperings 
were the ghosts of familiar voices now still. He stopped 
to listen. He could hear Ayeshi's voice, low-pitched and 
meditative, the harsher notes of the headman : 

" Ah, those were the great days the great days 

The headman had been swept away in the last epidemic. 
Ayeshi was gone. He would never sit again by the red 
firelight and listen to the story of the Rani Kurnavati. 
He would never lie and stare up through the fret-work of 
peepul leaves and dream his boyish dreams of her. Gone 
all gone. 

He walked on rapidly. He had no consciousness of 
distance or any purpose only a desire to be always moving. 
But at last a sound broke through to him the dull, menac- 
ing roar of unseen water sliding past him into the darkness. 
He knew then that he had reached the limit of his respite. 
The menace was for him. This was the end of drifting 
of all dreams. Here was the reality the whole future to 
be faced. 

He stood there listening bracing himself. . . . 

It was close on daybreak when he returned. The lamp 
still burned dimly. Meredith lay on the camp-bed, fully 
dressed, apparently asleep. Tristram glanced at the com- 
posed face and then stumbled over to the table against the 
wall and sat down. The struggle was over, but it had left 
him exhausted, broken, his mind blank save for odd distor- 
tions of memory. He thought he heard Wickie patter over 
the floor to meet him Ayeshi's soft and friendly foot-fall 
a voice in his ear " I could make you a rich man you 

could marry whom you pleased " He heard a woman 

speaking gently with a subdued triumph "Is this your 
confession, Major Tristram ? " 

But Meredith was not asleep. He had spent the night 
in a bitter conflict of uncertainties, in prayer, in alternating 
thankfulness and dread. Up to now, his growing purpose 
had been a light in his path, brightening as his eyes streng- 
thened to the prospect it revealed. He had hugged sacrifice 
to himself and grown peaceful in his surrender. Now that 
his sacrifice and surrender had been made full and com- 
plete, he had lost his vision. 

On Tristram's return, he had feigned sleep instinctively. 
Now the big, powerful figure huddled by the table fascinated 



A MEREDITH TO THE RESCUE 169 

him. He watched through half-opened lips, painfully 
aware that he was eavesdropping, spying, but unable to 
turn away. Something was to be shown, made clear to 
him. He saw Tristram pick up a photograph which had 
stood hidden in the shadow and hold it before him. He 
remained thus motionless for many minutes. Meredith 
tried to speak to him, to hinder at all costs the self-betrayal 
which was to come. But it was too late. Without a 
sound, Tristram had dropped forward, hiding the portrait 
with his body, his face in his arms. 

Thereafter Meredith lay still, with closed agres, sick 
with an unformed sense of disaster. 

By daybreak Tristram had disappeared. He left a 
brief note. He had been called to the next village a case 
of fever. He hoped that the eggs would be all right for 
Meredith's breakfast. All very matter-of-fact and natural. 

But the portrait on the table had vanished witfc lamn. 



CHAPTER XVII 

MRS. SMITHERS DOES ACCOUNTS 

AS she would have been the first to admit, arithmetic 
> was not one of Mrs. Smithers' intellectual strong- 
holds. Figures baulked her. They were an inex- 
haustible enemy which, when aroused, flung themselves 
upon her in serried 4egions and battalions, eluded pursuit, 
barricaded themselvfes behind mysterious lines, multiplied 
themselves into preposterous quantities, and utterly refused 
to " come out " and surrender to Mrs. Smithers' somewhat 
individual laws of subtraction and addition. 

On this particular afternoon, she had determined on a 
grand assault, and had armed herself with a large sheet of 
paper, a pencil sharpened to a nicety, removed her mittens, 
straightened her wig, and figuratively rolled up her sleeves. 
Having made these preparations, which were probably 
intended more as a demonstration of impending " fright- 
fulness " than as an actual assistance in her task, she took 
up her position in the dak-bungalow dining-room and opened 
fire. 

She had fought unflinchingly for an hour, when the 
curtains at the far end of the room were pushed aside with 
an impatience which Mrs. Smithers seemed to recognise. 
Before she even looked up, she turned the sheet of paper, 
with its pattern of astonishing hieroglyphics on its face, and 
set her mittens upon it with an air of fixing a tombstone 
over the body of her enemy. 

"Why, Lawks a-mercy, Sigrid, I thought, you were 
sleeping ! " she exclaimed. 

" The punkah-coolie had a nap instead. It was so hot 
oh, Smithy, what an annoying person you can be ! I've 
been hunting for you for the last hour." 

" In which case," Mrs. Smithers commented, with a 

170 



MRS. SMITHERS DOES ACCOUNTS 171 

judicial flavour of speech culled from the law reports, 
" you must have looked under all the chairs and tables. 
I can't see how anybody could hunt for anything in this 
nasty barn of a place without running into them in ten 
minutes. Not a decent door, not a corner where you can 
get a moment to yourself let alone escape from those 
crawling black things " 

Sigrid Fersen sighed. She had been standing in the 
doorway, one slender arm, from which the sleeve of her 
pale green tea-gown had dropped back, raised to hold aside 
the curtain. Now she came forward, moving restlessly 
and noiselessly about the room, picking up one ornament 
after another and putting it down without apparently 
having looked at it. 

" You never will let me wipe my boots on you, Smithy," 
she complained. " I've trained you to be a doormat ever 
since I was an infant in arms, and you still show not the 
slightest aptitude. One of these days, I shall lose patience 
and send you flying." She caught the line of contempt at 
the corner of Mrs. Smithers' prim mouth and came over 
and pinched her ear with real severity. " I saw that sneer, 
you horrid, disreputable old tyrant! You think I can't 

get on without you. I wish I could, just to spite you 

She stopped short, as though losing interest in her train of 
thought, and stood at Mrs. Smithers' side stroking the 
latter's withered cheek with a light, absent-minded hand. 
Mrs. Smithers accepted the attention much as a cat would 
have done, without gush or undignified gratitude, but with 
sedate I-fully-deserve-it satisfaction. " Smithy, do you 
realise that we shall have to pack up soon ? " 

" And a very good thing, too. A nice sight you're 
getting to look in this oven of a place." 

" Am I ? I thought so myself this afternoon. It quite 
frightened me. Smithy, make an effort and tell the 
truth. Am I showing signs of of wear and tear ? " 

Mrs. Smithers unbent. She took the hand on her shoulder 
and kissed it abruptly and shamefacedly. 

" Steel doesn't rust, Sigrid." 

" Doesn't it ? That shows what you know about steel. 
Also it proves you've been reading penny novelettes again. 
Still, there is such a thing as poetic licence, and as a com- 
pliment it will pass. No, I shan't rust, Smithy I'd rather 
snap like the good blade of your metaphor She 
drifted along the currents of her thoughts for a moment, 



172 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

and then added abruptly, " So it's hey for England and 
the end of things." 

"The beginning, my dear." 

" I don't know. We're almost at the end of our tether." 

" Well, you knew that would happen." 

" Yes I suppose I did. I remember making admirable, 
lucid plans to meet the event. Nothing particular havS 
happened to upset them." 

" Nothing at all, my dear." 

" By the way, the Rajah has asked me to marry him." 

Mrs. Smithers laughed. Her amusement was usually of 
a more restrained kind, and the laugh had a rusty, disused 
sound. 

"That's a good joke." 

" Isn't it ? I don't think he would have offered me 
anything so respectable if he had had more pluck. He's 
terrified of me and of Gaya. He imagines Gaya would 
make him impossible if he insulted me. I've outgrown 
his original intentions altogether." 

" What did you say ? " 

" I told him he wasn't rich enough. It was horribly 
vulgar, but it's the sort of thing he understands. Fve 
never seen a man more humiliated. If I had told him he 
was a blackguard, he wouldn't have minded. It's wonder- 
ful how he has assimilated our Western ideals." 

"Sigrid " 

" Yes, I know I'm in a detestable mood. I'm upset, 
Smithy. I've always controlled my life, moulded it into 
the shape I wanted. I was so sure that I could neve'r be 
beaten by it. I thought there was only one real catastrophe 
we human beings were afflicted with ill-health and that 
I was prepared to master in my own way. But now 

Mrs. Smithers picked up her pencil and tapped the table 
with a judicial air of summing up. 

"You're out of sorts, Sigrid. Look at things straight. 
Two years ago we started off on a wild-goose chase. I 
knew it was a wild-goose chase, but you had to be humoured 
and so I just let you run. Besides, you had a grain of 
horse sense in you. If you couldn't find what you wanted 
in those two years, you'd take the next best thing. Well, 
you haven't found it " 

" How do you know ? What about the Rajah ? " 

" Sigrid your mind wants a good spring-cleaning. It's 
full of cobwebs and horrors " 



MRS. SMITHERS DOES ACCOUNTS 173 

" Or Major Tristram ? " 

Mrs. Smithers seized upon her mittens and folded them 
up into a tight ball and smacked them viciously down on 
the table. 

" Of course, you're in love with him the poor benighted, 
footling ninny. That's the whole trouble." 

" And you're dying for me to marry him. That's why 
you're always insulting him." 

She moved away from Mrs. Smithers' side and stood at 
the open window looking out on to the garden, her hand 
to her cheek in her favourite attitude of meditation. ' ' Yes, 
I am in love with him in a superficial sort of way. It's 
his absurdity, his unreality, his utterly impossible con- 
ception of life. And his love of me. Just as absurd as 
the rest of him. A fantasia. Two years' worship of a 
woman he saw dancing for ten minutes before a vulgar, 
gaping, unseeing mob ! Think of it. It's sheer worship, 
Smithy. He sees something miraculous divine ifl me. 
That's the wonderful part of him. He's right. He's gone 
right through me to what is divine my art. He saw me 
dance he was just a country-bumpkin who didn't know 
Beethoven from Bizet and he didn't worry about my 
beauty or the shape of my limbs, or wonder whether my 
pearls were real or who gave them to me. He saw God in 
me. I knew that when I found my photograph on his 
table. In a kind of flash. It wasn't a silly, stage-door 
infatuation. It was real a perfect understanding." 
She threw out her arms with a gesture of freedom, of 
spiritual expansion. " Oh, it tasted good, that under- 
standing. I couldn't have done less than love him." 
She seemed to sink into a deep, brooding contentment, and 
Mrs. Smithers did not move nor speak. "But I shan't 
marry him. I am not young any longer. I have built 
my house and have lived in it too long. I need space 
and splendour, magnificence. I should stifle in his hovel. 
I am no sensualist. I belong to the best of the old Greeks. 
No vulgar display of wealth, no ugliness of poverty but 
absolute Beauty that's my religion the most austere 
religion of the world. He understands, but he cannot 
follow. He doesn't know it, but he has chosen the road 
of the Galilean not the Galilean of the Cross, but the 
simple man who loved the sparrows and the lilies and 

I follow Diana and Apollo " She broke off with a sigh 

and turned away. " So that's the end of that. We shall 



174 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

pack our trunks, and one day it will be just an episode. 
But to-day don't let any one worry me to-day, Smithy. 
There's some one coming up the drive now. Tell them 
I'm ill anything only don't let them worry me ' 

She touched the old cheek with her lips, and then sound- 
lessly, like a flash of pale light, had vanished. 

Mrs. Smithers unfolded her mittens and put them on. 
Apparently unmoved, she was about to resume her offensive 
against her enemy, when Mary Compton made her appear- 
ance on the balcony. Whereupon Mrs. Smithers postponed 
her attack in order to settle first with the intruder. Her 
manner, however, was almost gracious. She liked Mrs. 
Compton. She liked her especially this afternoon because 
she was wearing one of Sigrid's frocks by no means an 
old one which Mrs. Smithers had altered with her own 
hands. This detail formed an unbreakable link of affection 
and fraternity. 

Mrs. Compton did not wait for an invitation. She 
dropped into the nearest chair, discarded her garden hat 
and flung her parasol on the floor, proceeding thereafter 
to ruffle her grey-threaded curly hair with an exasperated 
hand. 

" Oh, the heat ! Smithy, for pity's sake, don't tell me 
I've faced it for nothing. Sigrid's in ? " 

" She's in, Mrs. Compton, but she's not at home." 

" Not even for me ? " 

" Not for a living soul." 

" She's she's not ill ? " 

"Not that I know of." She shot a glance at Mrs. 
Compton's crestfallen countenance, and relaxed her official 
attitude. " You can have a cup of tea if you like." 

Mrs. Compton laughed. 

" Well, it's a poor substitute, but I'll take it. I should 
expire on your doorstep if you didn't give me something 
to revive me. I met that brute of a Barclay on the road 
and he offered me a lift. The mere thought of it will keep 
me on the frazzle for days. I only hope he isn't coming 
here." 

" He'd better not," Mrs. Smithers observed, with grim 
significance. There was a moment's silence, and then she 
jerked her head in the direction of the curtained doorway. 
" It's the heat," she explained. " It's just wearing her to 
ribbons. The Lord be praised, we shall be going back to 
civilisation soon." 



MRS. SMITHERS DOES ACCOUNTS 175 

Mrs. Compton sat bolt upright, red with consternation. 

"She's not going back to England ? " 

" I hope so, I'm sure." 

" It's it's an engagement, I suppose ? " 

" H'm, a sort of one." 

" Smithy and it's just as though she only arrived yester- 
day. What shall I do ? Everything will be nothing 
without her. What did she come for ? Just to make 
us all hate each other, just to show us what a silly, colour- 
less world we live in ? Smithy, this means a divorce for 
me. I shall desert Archie. I shall live at stage-doors and 
spend my fortune on front seats in the pit. I shall see her 
dance at last " 

The very poignant feeling which underlay her desperate 
humour touched Mrs. Smithers to the quick. At all times 
she was inclined to treat facetiousness seriously, most of 
life's jokes having been made at her expense, and she saw 
more of Mary Compton's grief than the latter knew. 

" My dear, don't you do nothing silly. You wouldn't 
see her dance." 

" In London." 

"No." 

" In Paris, then " 

" Not in Paris nowhere." 

" But, Smithy " 

" If she did, she'd " Mrs. Smithers took her tongue 

between her teeth. She leant across the table, her stiff 
old body quivering with menace. " Don't you breathe a 
word don't you let on if you do, I'll I'll " 

W T hat Mrs. Smithers would or would not have done Mrs. 
Compton never knew. In a state of uncomprehending 
consternation, she almost welcomed the diversion created' 
by the entry of a frightened-looking servant. 

" Mem-Sahib if you please, Mem-Sahib " 

His announcement was also lost. He was pushed roughly 
aside and James Barclay entered. At sight of his tall, 
perfectly clad figure Mrs. Smithers was on her feet, and 
for a moment Mrs. Compton believed she intended a personal 
assault a belief which Barclay himself appeared to share, 
for his attitude became more deferential though not less 
resolute. He bowed gravely to his opponent, including 
Mrs. Compton in the greeting. Mrs. Compton ignored him. 

" I am sorry to be forced to intrude in this way," he 
began with a certain dignity. " It seems to be fated that 



176 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

I should have to burgle my entry. But I was practically 
certain that an ordinary appeal for admission would be 
ignored. So I just followed on your butler's heels. May I 
speak to Miss Fersen ? " 

Mrs. Smithers drew a deep breath of indignation. 

" No, you may not. She's not seeing any one much less 
you you blackguard " 

Mrs. Compton jumped at the sheer vigour and audacity 
of the attack, and then, as she saw Barclay's face, was 
conscious of a pang of the half-angry pity which he had 
caused her once before. A peculiar pallor showed under 
his olive skin. He was no longer smiling, and his eyes 
had a sick, stricken look like that of an animal badly hurt. 
The next minute he was himself again, cool, resolute, 
without that insolence which stamped most of his actions 
as weak and fundamentally diffident. 

" I am sorry you think of me like that, Mrs. Smithers, 
but I won't argue about it. I must see Miss Fersen ' 

" Do you want me to throw you out with my own 
hands " 

" No, I don't," he returned, with perfect gravity. " All 
I ask of you is to give Miss Fersen this letter. It was 
written in case she refused to see me. It is a business 
matter." 

Mrs. Smithers wavered, obviously nonplussed by the 
man's quiet resolution. In despair, she appealed to Mrs. 
Compton. 

" What shall I do with him ? " 

Mrs. Compton stared out into the garden. 

" You'd better take the letter, hadn't you ? It gives 
Sigrid a chance to decide for herself." 

"Oh, very well." She snatched the letter from Barclay's 
hands and made her exit with what sounded like the 
challenging snort of an old war-horse. Barclay maintained 
his position quietly. He made no effort to speak to Mrs. 
Compton, who continued to ignore him. But, without 
knowing it, his restraint began to trouble her, and she 
resorted to the mannerism of stage heroes when confronted 
by the villain and a painful situation. She opened a silver 
case on the table beside her, selected a cigarette, and began 
to smoke with an insulting satisfaction. Had Barclay 
offered her the lighter which she was certain he possessed, 
she felt that she would have infallibly struck him ; but he 
stood stroking his moustache, and apparently as uncon- 



MRS. SMITHERS DOES ACCOUNTS 177* 

scious of her as she pretended to be of him. The silence 
became intolerable. Furiously conscious that he had 
beaten her on her own ground, she got up and went out 
on to the balcony, only to realise with increased annoyance 
that she had been beaten by a second. Mrs. Smithers had 
returned. She did not look at Barclay, and addressed her 
message to the opposite wall. 

"' You can go in," she said. 

He bowed, showing no sign of elation or surprise, and 
the door closed behind him. Mary Compton returned, 
and the two women busied themselves with the tea-things 
which had been brought in, paying the function more 
intent interest than was usual. They were both nervous. 
For all Mrs. Smithers' excessive clatter, they could hear 
voices, muffled and continuous, and something in the sound 
paralysed their initiative. Neither wished to listen, but 
they found nothing with which to cover their com- 
pulsory attention. When Mrs. Smithers spoke at last it 
was with a breathless tremulousness. 

" I don't know what Sigrid did it for," she said. " She 
didn't want to see any one, and now this creature comes 
along. Just because he met her once at some reception 
he'd managed to wriggle himself into she can be so idio- 
tically good-natured it was a begging letter, I'm sure ; the 
nasty, cadging blackamoor." 

Mrs. Compton did not respond directly. She had what, 
for all men say, is a quality equally rare in both sexes, a 
profound reverence for the reticences and secrets of her 
friends, and she wished to avoid the confidences which 
might be hovering on Mrs. Smithers' unsteady lips. 

' ' I hate meeting that man," she said, by way of an answer. 
" He frightens me. I always think of him as an English 
sin come home to roost a bird of ill-omen, not necessarily 
bad, just foredoomed to evil. I wish he hadn't come to 
Gaya." 

'" I wish he'd leave Sigrid alone," Mrs. Smithers muttered. 

Mary Compton knew now that Barclay had been at the 
dak-bungalow before, and wished she did not know. The 
knowledge troubled her, increasing an inexplicable uneasi- 
ness. Something was going on in that next room. Though 
she could not and would not have heard the words, the 
voices persisted in attaining her consciousness. Their tone 
was neither angry nor excited, but intensely earnest. 
Business ? What business could James Barclay have with 



178 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

a woman he scarcely knew ? She could not avoid the 
question. Then came a silence infinitely worse than the 
voices it was so sudden and prolonged. 

Mary Compton became almost panic-stricken in her 
effort to escape from the fascination of that silence. She 
turned her attention to Mrs. Smithers, who had deserted 
her tea and gone back to her figures. ^ 

" Are you drawing patterns ? " she asked hurriedly. ^ 

Mrs. Smithers shook her head. 

" Sums," she explained. " Never could do them even 
in me board-school days, and that's some time ago. Are 
you any good ? " 

" I wrestle with accounts once a week not successfully. 
But that's not the fault of my arithmetic. It's Archie's 
pay. Can I help ? " 

Mrs. Smithe.rs sat back and folded her hands. 

" What I'm trying to find put," she began, " is, what 
income would one have if one had two thousand pounds ? " 

" It depends on the rate of interest." 

'' What rate of interest can one have ? " 

" Well, three-and-a-half per cent, if you're rich, and five 
per cent, if you're poor. If one hasn't much, it's a case 
of sink or swim." 

" Let's split the difference say, four per cent. Here 
you can have the pencil " 

Mrs. Compton laughed. 

" I can manage that in my head. Eighty pounds would 
be about your income." 

" Lawks a-mercy ! " said Mrs. Smithers under her 
breath. She brooded over this information for a minute, 
in which her companion became aware that Sigrid was 
speaking again very quietly. If she had spoken angrily 
Mary Compton would not have felt her heart beating against 
her ribs in an absurd, horrible excitement. "It's amazing 
what a little a lot of money is, " Mrs. Smithers philosophised 
gloomily. " I've done a powerful lot of saving, and two 
thousand pounds seems a powerful lot to have saved, but 
what's eighty pounds a year ? A mere drop in an ocean. 
One couldn't keep oneself in boots and shoes with it." 

Mrs. Compton stared. Mrs. Smithers' elastic-sided foot- 
gear did not suggest eighty pounds expenditure, or any- 
thing like it. 

o I suppose not," she ventured. 

" And two thousand pounds, for that matter," Mrs. 



MRS,. SMITHERS DOES ACCOUNTS 179 

Smithers continued, with increased contempt. " What's 
the good of that ? One couldn't h've decently for six 
months on it." 

" I could," Mrs. Compton assured her with a smouldering 
twinkle in her bright eyes ; " but, of course, I'm different. 
I say, Smithy, are you going on the bust painting Gaya 
red and that sort of thing ? Do include me in the invitation 
if you are. I'd just love to do something outrageous." 
But Mrs. Smithers remained Coldly unresponsive, and she 
got up with a sigh of discomfort. " Well, I'm off. I can't 
stand that man's voice, and I don't want to see him again. 
Tell Sigrid I've been, and implore her to come round to 
dinner. Archie and I are bored stiff with each other." 
She paused on the edge of the verandah, driving the point 
of her parasol in between the flags and becoming violently 
slangy. "I say, Smithy dear, you know I look upon you 
as a sort of guardian angel to Sigrid. I just wanted to say 
if there's anything wrong any one who's in need of a 
kicking or or anything of that kind or, in fact, if Sigrid 
wants a body-guard physically or otherwise just drop us 
the wink. Archie and I are on." 

She was blushing hotly. Mrs. Smithers cleared her 
throat. 

" I shall certainly drop you the wink," she said, in her 
best manner. 

Mrs. Compton nodded, opened her parasol and set out to 
face the stretch of hot road back to her own bungalow. 

Ten minutes later the door between the two rooms 
opened. Mrs. Smithers did not so much as look at Barclay, 
her only intimation that she recognised his passing being 
a sudden stiffening of her long back. Barclay bowed to 
her, still very calm and unchafienging, and went out. 

Mrs. Smithers waited until she heard the crunch of wheels 
fade along the drive, and then sailed indignantly into the 
next room. She was trembling a little and desperately 
anxious to appear merely angry. 

" I can't think how you did it, Sigrid. There was Mrs. 
Compton wanting to see you, and instead you talked and* 
talked to that nasty half-caste. I was ashamed I was 
really " 

She stopped, at the end of artificial fury, but still tremb- 
ling. Sigrid stood by her writing-table. A long beam 
of evening sunshine rested lightly and lovingly on her. 
In her delicate shaded gown, her slender body tensely still 



180 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

and living, she looked like a huge butterfly, wings half 
spread, poised for flight. Her head was bent a little, and 
she still held Barclay's letter in her hands. 

" I'm sorry, Smithy. It was important. It seems there's 
a kind of matrimonial epidemic in Gaya. He has asked me 
to marry him." 

Mrs. Smithers burst into loud and uncontrolled laughter. 

" I shouldn't have thought it would have taken you all 
that time to give him his answer the creature 

" I didn't give him an answer. I didn't know I've got 
to think things over." 

" Sigrid " 

It grew very still. Mrs. Smithers' withered hands her 
fluttered up to her breast and rested there in a helpless 
weakness. Sigrid began to tear the letter across and 
across. 

" Why are you so upset, Smithy ? After all, it's just 
what we planned just what you wanted. He's rich 
very rich. He was explaining to me how rich. And I 
need money a great deal of it to live and die beauti- 
fully " 

" Sigrid ! " The cry snapped the palsy which had laid 
itself on Mrs. Smithers' tongue. She came out of her 
weakness strong and fierce and outraged. It did not matter 
that her ' h's ' flew to the winds. There was nothing comic 
in her as she stood there, stemming the disaster with her 
utter disbelief. " You can't mean it it would be a 
wicked, wicked thing. It would be a crime a dirty crime 
you'd be selling yourself yes, I shall say it, Sigrid. 
I've stood by you through thick and thin, I 'ave ; I've 
been like a dog that's never questioned, never thought if 
what you did was right or wrong I've licked your hand 
through everything but you'd be no- better than than 
a woman on the streets " 

" Be silent ! " 

" I won't. This isn't what we planned. It's different. 
I'll fight you, Sigrid. I'll fight you every inch. I've got 
my share in you I won't 'ave it spoiled and moiled. I 
won't." She paused an instant, drawing her breath deep 
and strong. " I'd kill 'im first," she said, between her teeth. 
Sigrid hah* turned. Her face looked small and white, 
as though something withering had passed over it. The 
wry, unsteady smile at the corners of her blue-shadowed 
lips was like light on something dead. 



MRS. SMITHERS DOES ACCOUNTS 181 

'" Not if I didn't wish it, Smithy. I dare say I shan't do 
it I don't know yet ; but, in any case, you can't get 
away you'll lick my hand, as you call it, to the very end." 

They eyed each other like enemies, battling will against 
will. The old woman wavered piteously. 

" Sigrid, my dear 'ave pity just because it's true 
because I can't fight you because I belong to you 'ave 
pity on yourself. Don't do it, my dear, don't do it, Sigrid 
I've got a bit of money saved. You can 'ave it every 
penny of it. I don't want it. It's your money what 
you've given me. An old woman like me doesn't want 
much. Take it, Sigrid ; it'll keep you for a bit, until 
until " 

" It won't do, Smith y I want money a great deal of 

money. It costs so much to live magnificently " She 

spoke with great slowness and deliberation. Suddenly she 
turned. There was a kind of panic in her eyes."* " Life's 
not got to be too strong for me I've got to go on as I will 
stick to me ! " 

A wave of delicate, youthful colour swept up into Airs. 
Smithers 'cheeks. Her whole life, lived selflessly, IbyaUy, 
in another's splendour culminated in this moment- in this 
appeal. She held out her arms, holding the half-yielding 
half-defiant figure in an embrace which challenged heaven 
and earth. 

" As though I shouldn't," she muttered fiercely. " My 
de % ar, as though I shouldn't " 



CHAPTER XVIH 

THE FEAST OF SIVA 

THEY came, so it seemed, from all the corners of India 
from the*east and west, north and south thin 
streams of life trickling across the fields and down 
the mountain-sides, till they converged in a broad, sluggish 
river wHfeh poured ceaselessly, irresistibly towards the 
place of its dreams and prayers. They had appeared 
miraculously, as though at a signal they had sprung up on 
the edge of the horizon and began their pilgrimage, as a 
conquering army bears down from all sides on a helpless 
citadel. But in reality they ki><-\\ nothing of each other, 
and there was no order in their advance. Some had come 
from the neighbouring villages, some from villages hundreds 
of miles away. Some had packed up with wife, child, and 
household gods the night before- some many months ago. 
They had come over the mountains, down lonely passes, 
through wild tracts of country where dangerous and 
desperate marauders, man and beast, preyed on their 
defencelessness. They had borne hunger and thirst and 
much sickness. Many of them had dropped by the May. 
But there had been no lamentation, no turning back. They 
had no interest in each other. Humanity, brotherhood, a 
common faith these things were without meaning for 
them. Yet, where danger threatened, little groups had 
herded together, driven by fear and instinct rooted deep 
in the trackless jungle of humanity's beginnings. They 
knew no pity. A pilgrim died by the roadside, and they 
looked at him indilleivntly. as at a commonplace, and he 
himself watched them pass with patient, um-xpectant 
nM^nntion. Suffering and death, were part of the scheme 
of things. They lived under the shadow of a Juggernaut, 
and to-day it was this man's turn to go under, to-morrow 
another's. They had no hope and no clear faith. Their 

182 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 1S3 

imaginations could not conjure up much to hope for- 
a child perhaps, the fulfilment of a curse against a neigh- 
bour, sufficient harvest and there were so many gods. 
And yet they came, mile after mile, footsore and hungry, 
gravely or passionately intent on a mystic goal whose 
significance they could not formulate even to themselves. 
The gods knew, and the priests perhaps ; but the gods were 
silent in these days, and the priests kept their counsel. 

Tristram stood on the outskirts of the village and watched 
them come down through the glory of the sunrise. They 
rolled past him in a cloud of dust and a blare of harsh- 
throated instruments and the rattle of native drums. The 
bright'inorning rays picked out a hundred glints of colour 
from among them here, a gay woman's chudder, there 
a rich puggri, or the glitter of gold ornaments, carried 
secretly and at great risk through the long journey, or the 
saffron robe of a holy man. All the stages of growth 
and decay were there Youth restraining its steps to the 
halting measure of age, rags and tatters and gaudy finery, 
gentle, mysterious-eyed women, lithe-limbed boys and 
half-naked, pot-bellied babies rolling bow-legged at their 
parents' side, comic as young puppies. Last of all, grey- 
bearded and scarcety human, a fakir crawling on hands 
and knees through the rising dust. So his oath bound him. 
Years ago, he had started out on this pilgrimage. Xow 
the end was in sight. He glanced up as he passed, but 
his face was without expression. Perhaps in those years 
he had reached his goal indifference, Nirvana, where there 
is neither desire nor hope, pain nor happiness. 

An odd misery laid hold of Tristram as he watched them. 
It was a pageant of life, all humanity struggling on through 
the heat and turmoil of years, driven by a secret, fathom- 
less impulse, obeying the behests of self-created gods, seek- 
ing a self-created goal out of the desperate need of their 
hearts. And tricksters^ and men of God, fanatics, con- 
ventionalists, bread-and-butter priests, preying on each 
other, trampling on each other, pushing always forward in 
pretended knowledge of the Force that drives them. 

But, to the man standing at Tristram's side, it was just 
a tiresome business. He was a captain in the native 
regiment, and was there with a handful of men to keep 
order if order could be kept. 

" I dare say there'll be a shindy by nightfall," he remarked. 
" There always is. Can't think why we put up with it. 



184 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

We shall have a Holy Place on every inch of the river if 
we go on encouraging them like this." 

" I suppose they've got to have a religion," Tristram 
observed absent ly. 

" Well, I wish they'd have a nice, quiet, Sunday-go-to- 
meeting one like mine. " Besides, it doesn't mean any- 
thing to them. It's just their way of taking a summer 
holiday." 

Tristram laughed and turned away. 

" Oh, well, if there are any bones broken, you'll know 
where to find me. And keep your eye on Meredith. His 
religion isn't the quiet, unobtrusive kind you favour." 

" Good old Meredith ! " the other man rejoined com- 
fortably. 

Tristram made his way along the fringe of the procession 
back to his own quarters. When he closed the door he 
shut out the light and dust, but not the noise, and for that 
he was conscious of a vague thankfulness. The quiet of 
the place had begun to haunt him. Rather than help him 
forget, it reminded him of what was no longer there. He 
was always looking round involuntarily for Wickie, peering 
into his favourite hiding-place in the shadow, as though 
the bright brown eyes would have to answer his appeal, 
with their solemn, impudent contemplation. Or he would 
rap out an order to Ayeshi and cateh himself up only to 
realise the heaviness of the silence which answered him. 

And there were other things that troubled him the 
carved chair where Sigrid Fersen had sat and looked at him 
with her disturbing eyes. At the time, she had seemed 
unreal, a vivid day-dream, a white glowing figure of his 
fancy, and now she was there always, dominating his 
consciousness. The place where the picture of the dancer 
had "stood was empty, too, yet he saw her the radiant 
head with its crown of vine-leaves thrown back, the mouth 
a little open, as though even in that moment of deliberate 
pose she breathed the ecstasy of living. That was what 
mattered, what made her most wonderful, and the poise' 
of her body, stereotyped enough and within the compass 
of a ballet girl, a thing of Supreme Art. 

He turned resolutely away from the empty place, allow- 
ing the tumult from without to pour over his vision of 
her, and went to his day's work. A subdivision of his little 
kitchen formed a combined laboratory and chemist's shop, 
and he set about cleaning his instruments, tidying up the 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 185 

bottles, noting failing supplies. That had been Ayeshi's 
job. He thought of Ayeshi as he dipped the instruments 
into the steriliser, wondering vaguely what he was doh>g, 
what he thought. Ayeshi, he knew, had found Boucicault 
and Wickie's body, and probably had buried the latter out 
of sight. He had shielded Tristram. Probably, too, he 
now sweated in the Calcutta University with bitter thoughts 
of a man who had prated so much of life and half-killed 
a fellow-creature for the sake of a dog. The idea did not 
hurt Tristram. He ached for the comradeship of the 
mysterious, romantic boy, but he had no sentimental rever- 
ence for himself. He had never realised that he had ever 
been so much as an ideal idealising in his own life too 
ardently to consider himself at all. 

He hummed as he worked. To others, the tune might 
have been unrecognisable, for at the best of times his voice 
had an uneven quality, and in singing it escaped control 
altogether. But in his brain the melody ran smoothly 
and beautifully. In the midst of it, he heard the latch of 
the door fall, and went out with his sleeve's rolled up to 
meet the new-comer. 

The door was wide open and framed her as she stood 
with her back to the sun-flooded village street, smiling 
at him. 

" I heard you singing," she said, with subdued mockery. 
" It was irresistible." 

He strove to answer her, denying the savage, joyous 
leap of his pulses. A kind of stupid deliberation settled 
on his brain. He found himself wondering whether she 
had removed her helmet because she knew the light would 
be shining on her hair. 

" Did you come all the way from Gay a to listen ? " he 
asked at last, with a brief laugh. 

" No, I came for the fulfilment of a promise," she an- 
swered. " For my day out." 

" It was a bad an impossible day to choose." 

" It was my last day." 

He was silent for an instant. He had tried to adjust 
his tone to hers and had failed. Now he ceased to try. 
He spoke roughly, rather brutally. 

" Then you're leaving Gay a ? " 

" I don't know perhaps. It all depends. At any rate 
this was my last chance." 

" I don't know how on earth you got here." 



186 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Ou horseback. I've put my steed with Arabella. 
You don't mind ? " 

" It's not safe for you here on a day like this." 

She smiled again, and for the first time he realised 
something new in her amusement a kind of repressed 
earnestness. 

" I'm not afraid. Do you want me to go away ? " 

Xo you don't know how glad " He broke off 

painfully, but she did not look at him or seem to notice 
that he had faltered. She bent down and put some- 
thing which she had been carrying to the ground. It 
was a round yellow something which unrolled itself and 
developed four short legs, a stumpy tail, a sharp little 
head peering out of a mass of fluffiness, and a strenuous, 
defiant yap. 

" I don't know what it is," Sigrid said gravely. " Per- 
haps God does I don't think any one else could even 
guess. But I thought you'd like it." 

" I don't understand," he said gently. He picked the 
little creature up and rubbed its black nose against his 
cheek. Then, looking at it, he burst into a big roar of 
real amusement. " My word, what an absurdity ! " 

" Yes, isn't it ? And utterly forsaken. Mr. Radcliffe 
found it somewhere with a rope and a brickbat round its 
ne,ck. That's why I thought you'd like it. At first, I 
meant to get you something first-rate a thoroughbred 
with a pedigree and then I thought you'd like this better. 
You see, it's a sort of memorial to Wickie. You know 
what people do when someone dies whom they love 
they build something or endow something something the 
dead person would like. Well, I think Wickie would like 
you to adopt that puppy." 

He looked at her. There was a rea.1 tenderness in her 
eyes as they met his. He fancied that her lips were not 
quite steady. 

" If you say so, it must be so," he said. " Wickie loved 
you. You knew all about him." 

'' We knew all about each other." She hesitated and 
then asked, " You'll keep my puppy ? " 

" Rather ! It's been horribly lonely I've wanted some 
one to give my scraps to " 

" The best bits ! Oh, I know you, Tristram Sahib ! " 

They both laughed. And suddenly the constraint 
ihem had gone. He busied himself eagerly, 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 187 

preparing Wickie's old sleeping quarters, filling the tin 
feeding-plate with reckless!} 7 collected puppy dainties. 

" Wickie'll be jolly glad," he said, in his boyish way. 
" He'd hate me to be lonely. And it's been lonely without 
him." 

" Yes, I know." She went and stood by his table, play- 
ing idly with the letters which lay heaped upon it. " And 
there's something I want to ask in return a sort of farewell 
gift. Make this a real day for us both give me a good 
time humour me. Let us be real with each other sincere, 
just as we reaUy are and feel. A sort of feast of honesty 
and fellowship. Will you ? " 

He stood beside her, looking down at her from his great 
height. 

" Our day of days ? " 

" The day of our lives." 

He flushed deeply under his tan, but he met her eyes 
steadily. A subtle change had come into his feeling for 
her. He could not have explained it it was an odd sense 
of quiet nearness, of understanding. And she, too, seemed 
different. At other times she had been in earnest, but 
not as now. There had always been 'that curious detach- 
ment in her, as though she stood apart and laughed at life 
and herself. Now for a moment, at least, she had ceased 
to be an onlooker. 

" Very well we'll make each other a present," he said. 
" A day off from the world something we won't account 
for to anybody." Ah" at once he became recklessly happy. 
" I'll go and collect food," he said. " The pup can stay 
here and play locum tenens." 

He came back presently from the kitchen. His sleeves 
were still rolled up, but he carried a basket under one arm 
and wore his helmet rakishty at the back of his head. See- 
ing him, the gravity passed like a mist from her eyes. 

" Oh, you caricature of Hercules ! " she jeered at him. 
" Tell me, have you ever worn decent clothes in your 
life?" 

"Sometimes. I have to squeeze into regimentals on 
occasions or into a frock-coat. You wouldn't know me 
I look a regular freak." 

" H'm ! and what do you think you look like now ? " 

" Ariel shouldn't mock at Caliban," he retorted gaily. 

"Even when Caliban throws Ariel's portrait out of the 
window." She pointed to the empty place on the table. 
7 



188 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Have I sunk so far below your thought of me, Major 
Tristram ? " 

He became serious in a moment, but without embarrass- 
ment. She had a sudden pleasure in him as he came and 
stood beside her in his bigness, in his sheer unconscious- 
ness of himself and his strength. She felt oddly compas- 
sionate, too the awestruck compassion of a Briinnhilde for 
a young Siegfried. 

" No," he said. " But I was a boy, at least, in thought 
and feeling and you were a boy's dream. Now I am a 
man and you are a reality. It would have been an imperti- 
nence of me to have kept you." 

She shook her head. 

" There's more in it than that, Tristram Sahib." 

" Yes," he assented gravely. " A great deal more." 

They remained together an instant, looking down at 
the empty place as though it held a sefret significance for 
them both ; then Tristram turned to the door and made 
a little grandiloquent bow of introduction. His eyes had 
lost their seriousness and laughed at her. "Behold, the 
day awaits us ! " he said. 

They went out side by side into the glowing mori 
The stream of pilgrims had grown denser and filled the 
street, beating up against the mud huts on either sid> 
spilling over into the open doorwaj's. And there was n 
thrill and fever in the air which gathered force, as at the 
cross-roads one stream poured into another and swirled 
and eddied in the effort to break a passage. Shrieks and 
cries, the beating of drums, the harsh calls of the mendi- 
cants, the. tramping of thousands of feet, the swirl of dust 
which could not rise for the pressure of the struggling bodies 
a mad whirl of sound and colour. Tristram turned to 
the woman beside him. 

" Do you mind can you face it ? " 

She laughed a little, with a repressed exultation. 

" This is the tarantella as I danced it the beginning 
before the madness comes the rising of the tide. Can't 
you feel it beating in your blood ? " 

A fresh band, headed by a swaying banner, pushed it> 
way through the leaderless crowd, and after that, carried 
on the shoulders of four sweating, staggering men, the 
image of the Triumvirate. 

The sun poured down over the roofs and glittered fieri ly 
on the three faces of the god. They had been gilded afresh 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 189 

for the occasion, and the hand which had laboured at their 
features had not failed in its simple craftsmanship. Bene- 
volence, cruelty, and an unutterable serenity stared over 
the heads of the tossing multitude. The idol swayed from 
side to side in its passage, and, as it caught the rays of the 
sun, gleamed with a living, sinister brightness.,, There were 
wreaths of faded flowers on the base of the altar, and there 
was white dust everywhere. The crowd surged closer, 
holding up its hands to it in greeting. Their lifted faces 
showed neither reverence, nor fear, nor hope, but a kind of 
frenzy seeking its outlet. 

Slowly, triumphantly, the image rocked on its way 
towards the river, a spot of sullen fire on the breast of an 
ever-changing sea of colour. Like a dangerous backwash, 
the mob closed in, sweeping it forward and leaving behind 
a sudden relaxation a breaking-up of the sea into a 
hundred drifting particles. It was the passing of a mad 
dream. The sun blazed on to the peaceful bustle. The 
note of frenzy died down. The old fakir had crawled on 
his knees into the shade and held out his wooden bowl, 
bleating monotonously. 

" Alakh ! Alakh ! " 

A merchant came out from his hiding-place in a cowshed 
and exhibited his wares. The hovel opposite revealed it- 
self as a cook-shop, where the hungry could buy pulse-puffs 
and dough-cakes and sweets of a hundred kinds. A sherbet- 
seller pitched his tent a few doors lower down and clinked 
his coloured glasses alluringly. An ascetic, with the face 
of a mediaeval saint, sold gilt-papered corks from champagne 
bottles as sacred charms of marvellous efficacy. 

Sigrid Fersen looked up into her Companion's face and 
they both laughed, scarcely knowing why, but swept away 
by a childish pleasure in the swiftness of the change, in 
the naive volte face of these simple folk, who a minute be- 
fore had trampled upon each other in a paroxysm of 
religious frenzy and now wandered wide-eyed and eager 
amidst all these bewildering fascinations. 

And perhaps, as the deep secret source of their pleasure, 
was the knowledge that the day was young and wholly 
theirs. 

" I want to buy something," she said gaily. " Why 
should we be superior,? It's our feast, too. And who 
knows if their values are not as good as ours ? if their 
faith in champagne corks isn't as effective as our super- 



190 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

gtitious belief in the mysterious horrors ompounded by 
an honourable Dakktar Sahib ! " She shot him a demure, 
malicious glance. " Come, I am going to buy recklessly ! " 

A bright-eyed boy beckoned them to the tray behind 
which he watched cross-legged and eager, like a handsome, 
bewitching spider. . It was not in vain that he had bright 
eyes or that he sold wares dear to the hearts of women. 
Tke merchant in cheap stuffs from Manchester, and even 
the sherbet-seller, watched him sourly as the soft-footed, 
timid women hovered about him pricing his coveted 
treasures. 

Now he looked up, showing his white teeth in a smile 
of innocent welcome. 

" Gifts for the Mem-Sahib and gifts for him whom 
Mem-Sahib loves." 

Sigrid knelt down in the dust beside his tray, and rum- 
maged through the medley of his stock. Ear-rings, 
bracelets, amulets, glass beads, vulgar trophies of Western 
taste paste diamond brooches stuck on cardboard and 
labelled rolled gold these last displayed with almost 
passionate pride, and here and there a scornfully suppressed 
relic of days when Manchester and Birmingham were not. 

Tristram stood beside her and watched her. He had 
the feeling that all this had happened before, years ago, 
and that this companionship of a day was just a link in a 
long, unbroken chain of days. It was so simple, so natural. 
He felt no constraint, scarcely any excitement, just an all- 
pervading peace. They had always known, each other, 
always shared their days, their thoughts and desires. He 
did not think about it. It filled his senses with a well- 
being, a rare and exquisite content. 

She gave an exclamation and held up something in the 
palm of her little hand. He took it from her. It was a 
bracelet made of seven threads of seven different colours 
and bound with a silver clasp. The boy-merchant shrugged 
scornfully. 

" It is nothing nothing, Mem-Sahib." 

" Do you remember ? " she asked. 

He nodded not looking at her now. 

" The Rani Kurnavati " 

" Yes that night when we sat by the moonlight and 

Ayeshi told us her story " She laid an extravagant 

sum on the tray. " There, that is all I want." 

The amazed merchant gasped his blessings after her. 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 191 

She walked on, threading her way through the aimless 
crowd, inspecting her purchase with a thoughtful pleasure. 

"I wanted to give it you," Tristram protested, ag- 
grievedly. 

" And I didn't want you to," she retorted. " You have 
given me enough, Major Tristram." 

Her solemn reversion to his title amused him. He 
watched her smilingly as she snapped the bracelet about 
her wrist. 

" What have I given you ? " 

" The cup. Have you forgotten ? I was so miserable 
because I forgot to thank you. I'd never been remorseful 
in my life before, but I was remorseful about that." 

"I'm sorry. Remorse is ghastly. And I hadn't ex- 
pected thanks." 

" You didn't expect to live. Ought I to give the cup 
back ? " 

" No." 

" But your mother ? " 

" I have told her," he said gravely. 

They reached the confines of the village. The high grass 
had been trampled down under the passing of a monstrous 
animal. Through the dazzling blaze of sunlight they 
could see a black mass swarming along the banks, a huge, 
writhing octopus whose tentacles groped towards the 
temple with greedy, hurrying persistency. And in the 
midst of it, like a restless, menacing eye, the Triumvirate 
flashed backwards and forwards in evil, delirious triumph. 

" They're bringing up their offerings now," Tristram 
said, rather grimly. " The Snake God and his retinue 
will have food enough for months to come. It's a queer 
thing no one has seen these serpents in the memory of 
man, and yet it's true enough that native sceptics who 
have ventured inside the jungle have either never returned 
or come out raving madmen. There is madness connected 
with the whole thing a kind of delirium which we English 
don't understand. It's in their blood, just as it's in the 
blood of some families to respond to supernatural influences 
which others don't even feel. Anyhow, we'd better keep 
clear of them to-day." 

" I have made my plan," she answered, with sedate 
authority. 

He knew now where she was going. They made their 
way in silence down the length of the river, touching the 



192 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

monster only there where its tentacles reached up to the 
temple, and came at last to the green-shadowed backwater. 
Tristram held aside the branches of the trees for her to 
pass through, and their eyes met. 

"Isn't this a fitting place to celebrate our day ? " she 
asked, " here, where a certain romantic Hermit beheld a 
vision and was not afraid ? " 

" Visions are not terrifying," he answered. 

" But the reality ? " 

She did not seem to expect an answer. The boughs of 
the trees had swung back into their place. They stood 
together at the edge of the water, looking down into its 
tangled depths, listening to the silence. Nothing had 
changed. It was as though time had fallen asleep, and 
they were still living in that first day of their meeting. 
The dense foliage of the trees walled them in from the 
heat and glare and tumult. The dull murmur that came 
to them from time to time seemed no more than the sough- 
ing of a rising wind. The peace of it laid itself upon their 
senses like a cooling hand. 

They sat down in the fresh grass, talking softly and only 
a little, fearing to disturb the sleeping spirit of the place. 
Tristram unpacked his basket and produced the day's 
provisions, over which they laughed subduedly. It" 
appeared that he was cook as well as doctor, and she made 
wry faces over the probable ingredients of his dough -cakes. 
For her humour had lost its keenness and had become 
very young and a little tremulous. He responded loyally 
and easily. There was no constraint between them, no 
sense of trouble. They were comrades together, respond- 
ing light-heartedly to the appeal of the sunlight, and the 
flowers burning brightly in the cool shadows. They did 
not know as yet that their real life lay beneath the surface 
of that easy comradeship in a great stillness where their 
own voices did not penetrate. 

But that stillness mastered them at last, flowing quietly 
and mightily over their broken, careless talk. The sun- 
light, falling aslant through the trees touched the green 
MC 'in of a high palm and began its upward journey. Tris- 
tram watched it. He had slipped lower down the bank, 
where he could see his own bulk shadowed darkly in the 
\\aicr and the pale, ghostly reflection of the woman behind 
him. At first, he had lain full length on his elbow looking 
at her frankty, fearlessly, as she sat above him, her hands 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 193 

clasped about her knees, her fair small head bent a little 
from p the light, so that her eyes seemed dark and more 
serious than her lips. Now he had turned away from her 
and watched the passing of the sunbeam. A kind of panic 
had gripped him. The time was passing. He had begun 
to realise dimly that what they had set out to do was 
impossible a defiance of the law of life. A day cannot 
be set apart from its fellows either for joy or sorrow. It 
is bound up with them by whatever menace or promise 
they hold, and the menace of yesterday and to-morrow 
touched him like the breath of a chill wind. 

He pointed out on to the water and saw that his hand 
shook. His pulses had begun to beat heavily, thickly. 

" The lotus-flower has gone," he said. 

"It is dead. It's so long ago it seems only yesterday 
to us. Do you remember asking me if I wanted it ? You 
were glad because I let it live out its life." 

' ' How did you know that ? " 

"I knew that you loved living things." 

" Isn't that a love common to us all ? " 

She gave a short laugh out of which the joyful irrespon- 
sibility had died. 

" Men love ideas the fetishes of their intellects. Or 
they love their cabbage-patch, or their country. Life and 
humanity are nothing to the majority. But you cared 
for everything." It was a long time before she spoke 
again, and then her voice had changed. It sounded Ian-- 
guid indifferent. " It must be terrible to kill," she 
said. 

He stirred, drawing himself up. 

"The unforgettable sin," he saicL 

" Unforgettable ? Have you ever known any one who 
had killed ? " 

" Yes. It was worse than killing. He smashed his 
man crippled him for life." 

" Perhaps he didn't care." 

" He cared desperately. He thought of life as I do " 

She laughed again. 

" Another Tolstoy an ! Well, he was punished, I sup- 
pose." 

" Oh, yes, he was punished. Not by the law. He had 
no belief in that Fetish of Justice an eye for an eye. 
His life was of value to another. Of what use would it 
have been to have smashed it with the rest ? He found 



194 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

the only way to make good the damage he had done and 
he took it." 

He spoke firmly, as a man does who has fought through 
to a clear issue. He heard her move he fancied that she 
had held out her hand as though to touch him, and that 
her hand had dropped. 

"Perhaps he was mistaken," she said. "Some one once 
said to me there is a curse on us that we are damned to 
destroy. Perhaps the life he took was justly taken 
perhaps it was a bad, valueless life " 

He turned impetuously, with an intensity of feeling far 
removed from his previous impersonal deliberation. 

" You can't tell," he said. " That's the ghastly part of 
it you can't tell. You find a piece of broken glass on 
your road. You grind it under foot or throw it away and 
think you've done your fellow creatures a service. And 
then a child comes along crying for its lost treasure. It 
doesn't matter that you were justified. The thing had 
its value, ^after all, and you smashed it. You hurt some 
one " 

" Some one is always hurt," she interrupted. 

A mist of passionate introspection passed from his eyes, 
and he saw her face very pale, with a blue shadow about 
the lips. He started; almost touching her. 

" You're ill tired ! " he stammered. 

" A little it was the heat and the crowd " 

He looked at the light on the green stem of the palm, 
as though to a warning hand. It had reached the end of 
its journey and had grown dim. He got up, holding him- 
self desperately erect. ," It's the end of the Feast," he 
said, " the end of our tiny." 

But she shook her head broodingly. 

"You can't tell that either only the gods know the 
end, Tristram Sahib." 



Something had wrapped itself about their senses. They 
had talked of impersonal things and save for that one 
break of his without emotion. But the emotion had been 
there, below the surface, crushed out of sight by an effort 
of the will which left them no physical consciousness. It 
walled them within themselves as the trees and dense 
foliage walled them in from the heat and tumult. 

Thus the storm broke on them without warning. It had 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 195 

risen little by little with the dull boom of an angry sea. 
They had heard nothing. But there had been a silence so 
tense, so prolonged that they looked at each other, won- 
dering,, waiting, though they did not -know it, for the 
scream that ripped through, tearing down the barriers 
of their unconsciousness, forcing a breach through which 
the full fury of the sound bore down upon them. 

Sigrid had risen instantly to her feet. 

" Tarantella ! " she breathed. " Tarantella ! " 

He did not wait to speak. He pushed through the under- 
growth, not knowing that she had followed him. On the 
fringe of the coppice he turned and found her at his elbow. 

" Something's happened/' he said briefly. " We can't 
stay here we've got to get back to the village " 

She nodded. A minute before she had looked ill, almost 
broken. Now the colour burnt in her cheek, she held 
herself lightly, strongly, and her eyes shone as they swept 
the scene before them. 

" Shall we get through ? " 

" I don't know I don't know what's happened. It may 
be nothing " 

" You don't believe that yourself. It is something. 
Anyhow, we've got to try for it " 

The fear was in him, not in her. Even then, striding at 
her side, bracing himself for whatever lay before them, he 
wondered at her, thrilled at the joyous adventurousness 
in her. Her head was erect and she was smiling faintly. 
The howling of the frantic, demented mob which swept 
backwards and forwards across the plain did not seem 
to touch her. He felt how, with the coolness of a general, 
she was measuring the distances, their chances. He saw 
the tightening of her lips and that she had measured 
rightly. 

"If it's us they're mad with, it will be a close finish," 
she said, with a low laugh. 

He scarcely heard her. He was watching the men and 
women who overtook them and ran past. Their faces 
were unknown to him. They looked back at him with 
the wild-eyed curiosity of animals. As yet it was only 
curiosity. They were as ignorant as himself as to the 
passion which had broken through the crust of restraint 
and now raged in a mad whirlpool between the temple 
and the river. But the infection of frenzy was upon 
them. They muttered as they ran past broken sentences 
7* 



196 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

in a dialect which he could not understand. They were 
pilgrims from distant provinces. He knew that they were 
in the majority and. that he could have no hold over 
them. They would sweep the rest with them even his 
own people. 

The sprawling mass of life which had hugged the bank 
of the river turned and rolled back. In an instant, it had 
blocked the narrow passage on which he had based his 
hope of escape.^ He could see the golden effigy swaying 
madly above the crowd like a bright, sinister barque on a 
black, raging sea, now flung back, now forward, but still 
drawing steadily nearer. Through the wild uproar of 
voices the dull thud of a drum persisted. It was as though 
in that frenzied movement there was a purpose a blind, 
demented will to an end. 

He stopped short. 

" We can't go on it's too late we must make a dash 
back and try for the bridge " ^ 

" It is too late," she answered simply. 

He saw then what she had seen. They were cut off. 
From left and right, the streams of hurrying men and 
women converged upon them, sweeping them forward as 
an Atlantic roller tosses driftwood on its crest. For an 
instant they were separated. He fought his way savagely 
back to lier side, and caught her to him with the roughness 
of panic. 

Mic looked up at him, smiling tranquilly, inscrutably. 
' Afraid, Tristram ? " 

' Yes horribly hideously if I had lost you " 

1 You didn't. I'm not afraid." 

' I can't forgive myself " 

' Why should you ? I am very happy." 

' \Ve must keep together. Give me your hand." 

She gave it him. He remembered how it had lain in his 
once before, how the splendid vitality and strength of it 
had thrilled him. It thrilled him now, it burnt like fire 
through his nerves. They stood facing each other, holding 
their ground, swept into a moment's oblivion of all else but 
themselves. There was exultation in that grave, brief 
contemplation. The panic had died out of the man's < 
He no longer pitied her or feared for her. He felt the joy 
of their new, fierce comradeship. 

' If it were only myself I could be glad 

" Be glad 1 " she cried back. " Isn't it worth it ? " 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 197 

A wave of frantic humanity forced them forward. They 
held together. He heard her laugh the eager, triumphant 
laugh of men in the glory of battle. " No one can separate 
us now ! " she said. 

" No one ! " he answered gladly. 

He knew it was true. Nothing, so it seemed to him, 
could break the steel link of their hands. But he had 
grown calmer. He had got to save her. The instinct 
which dajnns the weak acceptance of annihilation burnt up 
clearly in him. He gave ground to the force behind him, 
keeping his feet with the utmost exertion of his strength, 
striving to force a passage towards the village. It was a 
vain effort. Faces were turned to him. He read their 
expression. The mere curiosity had become distrust a 
furtive antagonism as yet unarmed with purpose. A fakir, 
wild-eyed, bespattered with filth, his emaciated arms flung 
up in imprecation, leered up at him. 

" Kill ! Kill ! Kill ! " 

It was no more than a whisper. But it passed from lip 
to lip. They were pushed on, the circle about them tight- 
ening in a strangling noose. For all her courage, he knew 
that the woman beside him was weakening. He heard her 
voice, strained and breathless. 

" Don't let me go under don't let me go under " 

He knew the horror that had forced the appeal from her 
the terror which can change a man's heart to water 
the horror of those pitiless trampling feet of those mad 
mob rushes under w r hich a human body can be stamped 
out of recognition. He threw one arm about her. He 
no longer resisted. It was better to go on to be for- 
gotten. But the stench of those hot, dust-laden bodies 
sickened him. It was the smell of hatred of madness. 
It sapped his strength. It was like the breathing in of a 
hideous poison. 

They swept on. They had reached the densest part of 
the crowd. Above them he could see the golden image, 
swaying dangerously from the shoulders of its staggering 
bearers. A ray of red light from the sinking sun was on 
the face nearest to them. Its frozen cruelty seemed to 
have drawn life into itself to be sucking up a horrible 
vitality from the very passions to which it had given birth. 
To Tristram's blurred vision the eyes blazed the mouth 
gaped with a grotesque lust of hatred. 

It was then he saw Meredith with his shoulders to the 



198 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

base of the altar, his arm raised, shielding his facn 
half-naked fakir sprang at him and dragged the arm 
down, and Tristram saw what had been done. The face 
was blotted out with blood. The lips were moving. In 
one clenched hand was an open Bible. Through the 
hellish pandemonium Tristram caught a single sentence : 

" Father, forgive them ' 

Tristram flung the man in front of him aside. He had 
felt the tense revival of strength in his companion like an 
electric current through all his nerves. They had got to 
stand together to go down with the man of their race, 
for good or evil uphold him. 

" We're coming ! " Tristram shouted. " Hold on ! " 

Meredith turned his head in their direction. Perhaps 
he saw them through the veil of blood. He made a gesture 
urging them back, and in the same instant the man whom 
Tristram had flung a^ide revealed his face. 

It was Lalloo, the money- lender. 

" Dakktar Sahib ! " he said. 

" Damn you let me go past ! " 

The old man smiled iniperturbably, shrugging his 
shoulders. The whisper, " The Dakktar Sahib," ran like 
an undercurrent of sound beneath the screams and < 
of the swaying, tossing multitude. A woman spat in 
Meredith's disfigured face. Tristram lurched forward, 
but already they had lost ground. Some new force had 
them in its grip. They were bound in a revolving circle 
of which Lalloo had become the pivot. Tristram looked 
about him. He recognised faces which seemed to have 
sprung from nowhere. There was Mehr Singh, the corn- 
dealer, and Seetul the weaver, Peru the village ne'er-do- 
we ll me n with whom he had lived and suffered. He 
cursed at them in their dialect, and they regarded him 
stolidly. He shook Lalloo fiercely with his free hand. 

" Let us get out of this I've got to get back to my 
friend do you hear. I've got to help him do you hear, 
you lying, grasping old man ? " 

Lalloo shrugged his shoulders. 

The circle rolled on. Meredith and the shining figure 
of the three-faced god had gone down in the black tumult. 
Tin i<>;ir of voices began to fade like thunder, rolling 
faintly in the distance. A breath of fresh air fanned their 
faces. The circle broke suddenly scattering in all direc- 
tions. 



. THE FEAST OF SIVA 199 

Tristram still held Lalloo by the shoulder. 

" You you saved us," he stammered thickly. " You 
saved us didn't you know me better than that " 

Lalloo rubbed his thin dark hands and smiled vaguely. 

" What have I done, Sahib ? " he said. " What have 
I done ? " And with an amazing facility freed himself 
and glided into the shadow of the deserted village. 

They went on, not speaking, not looking at each other, 
sick with the horror of that which they had left behind 
them. At the door of Tristram's hut a man came running 
towards them. It was the Captain of the native regiment, 
cursing volubly. 

" Tristram where the devil have you been ? What's 
happened ! What set them off ? " 

" Meredith preaching the love of God to Siva." 

" Oh, damn the parsons ! " He mopped his face in 
helpless exasperation. " Well, I've had a nice time of it. 
Men vanished into thin air. They've been queer for months 
now they've gone. Anyhow, I shall have to stick to it 
overawe them with my presence and all that." Even in 
that moment, his English good-humour prevailed. " Give 
us a hand, Tristram you've influence with them. What's 
happened to Meredith ? " 

" I don't know " 

" Well, we'll try and get him out. Miss Fersen, you 
stay quietly in there. There's no getting away just 
yet. If neither of us get back, there'll be relief from 
Gaya as soon as they get wind of this shindy. Come on, 
Hermit ! " 

Tristram held open the door for her. 

" You won't mind my going ? I may be able to 
help 

" I want you to go. I am not afraid." 

"I know.'" 

They avoided each other's eyes. For one moment at 
least they had expected death perhaps willed to die 
and in that moment had dared to live. 

She went past him, closing the'door after her. 



Night came on. It rose blackly out of the far corners 
of the,hut, creeping stealthily and soundlessly up the walls. 
as water rises in a closed lock. She had sat and watched 
it and listened to the deep, encircling silence beyond which 



200 TRISTRAM SAHIB 



was sound indefinable, subdued, continuous. Once it 
had come nearer and instinctively she had sprung up. 
bracing herself then rolled back again, with a thwarted. 
muffled murmur. 

She had fed the stray pup and put it to sleep on Wickie's 
old bed. A disreputable, ill-bred-looking tabby had crept 
slyly in through the open window and had eyed the intruder 
with disapproving curiosity, then settled herself down as 
one accustomed to eccentricities. Sigrid had laughed a 
little at the interlude. It had seemed grotesque and hum- 
drum, a kind of satire on that which the sound painted on 
the gathering darkness. 

Presently it was quite dark. She got up and lit a candle, 
and held it high above her head. The name threw a pale 
circle of light down on the surface of the still black waters 
which eddied round her. It gave life to an eerie process ion 
of formless, soft-footed shadows. She watched them slide 
past, from darkness to darkness. Then she went baek 
to the table and sat there with her chin in her hand, her 
wide eyes fixed broodingly on something far beyond the 
tiny pillar of light. 

An hour passed. She got up and moved restlessly about 
the room. In the struggle, her helmet had been knocked 
off and her hair loosened. She let it down and smoothed 
its fair softness with her hands. There was no glass in 
the place. She took the candle to the carved table against 
the wall, and knelt down so that she could see a faint 
reflection of herself in the glass of the big photograph. 
She began to do her hair with fastidious, delicate carefulness. 
When it was done she took the photograph and held it 
to the light. There was a pile of letters on the table. 
The envelopes bore the same handwriting strong and 
clear, yet not with the strength and clearness of youth. 
It had an indefinable affinity with the old face that looked 
out at her with its serene, smiling wisdom from the wooden 
photo-frame. She counted the letters, lingering over 
them, as though their touch brought her secret know- 
ledge. 

The cat, sleeping by the wall, lifted its head. A minute 
later, it got- up, arching its back, its fur bristling, its eyes 
bla/.ing in the darkness. She glanced towards it, aroused 
by its soft, menacing hiss of anger and fear. Then sud- 
denly the silence around her shivered and broke. She. 
turned and slipped into the second room. There was a:i 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 201 

old hunting-knife lying among the debris of their hastily 
prepared picnic. She snatched it up and ran back, 
placing herself against the wall with the light between her 
and the door. 

The sound that rushed down upon her was a new thing 
more terrible than the roar which had beaten persistently 
against the outer wall of her consciousness. It was like 
rain and wind and water tearing through a narrow gully. 
It came on swiftly, gathering speed and violence. It 
came with a rush down the village street nearer and nearer 
the patter of countless running feet the gasp and groan 
of hard-drawn breath, stifled mutterings, the shrill scream 
of a woman breaking off into a choking gurgle. Nearer 
in a headlong torrent right to the closed door. She drew 
herself up, her lithe body tense and prepared and it 
swept past. It raced on in a ceaseless torrent. She heard 
the jolt of a heavy body sent reeling against the walls of 
the hut and a little whimpering sound that was like a 
child 'scrying. Behind the deluge there was a fresh sound 
the clatter of horses' hoofs at the gallop. 

The door opened and closed. She had taken an involun- 
tary step f orward to meet whatever was to come, the knife 
clenched in her right hand ; but, as she saw Tristram, she 
relaxed with a short, shuddering sigh and her hand sank. 
He stood leaning with his shoulders against the door, 
staring at her. His clothes were torn and blood-stained. 
There was something wild and violent in his face which 
she had never seen before the look of a fighter straight 
from a struggle in which every nerve and sinew has been 
put to a dire test in which all the primitive passions of 
men have risen like wolf-hounds tugging at the leash. 
The sleeve of his shirt had been ripped to the elbow, and she 
saw the grand curving line of his shoulder, expressive of an 
immense, tutored strength. 

The hot colour raced through her pallor. She looked 
back to his face. His eyes had dropped to the knife which 
she still held they met hers now and blazed back her 
fierce and sombre admiration. They remained thus 
watching each other through a moment of shaken silence. 
Then he . lurched forward, dropping down on the chair 
by the table, sprawling like a man overtaken by a 
sudden exhaustion, his bleeding hands clenched before 
him. 

f am sick sick of bloodshed ! " he muttered. 



202 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

She laid the knife quietly on the table and stood looking 
dov, n at his bent head. 

li Meredith " she began. 

He threw back his shoulders with a bitter laugh. 

" Did you ever know of any one who set out to sacrifice 
himself and who didn't sacrifice every one else first ? 
Meredith's safe but my people my poor people they 
didn't mean any hann they saved us you and me. 
Even though one of our kind had spat in the face of their 
religion they didn't forget. You don't know what it 
meant to them to be so cahn and loyal in all that frenzy. 
Then then the troops came from Gaya. There was a 
stampede no one meant to hurt any one but they went 
under dozens of them stamped out of recognition old 
Seetul and Lalloo's little son, whom I nursed once 
He broke off with a harsh, dry sob. She knelt down beside 
him. She drew his head down to her shoulder, soothing 
him like a child. 

" Tristram you mustn't mind so. Things happen like 
that. We don't mean to harm each other we don't 
realise or we can't help ourselves. Some one has to go 
under. We're always trampling on some one. It can't be 
helped. The crowd is too great we have to fight for our- 
selves first. We were made like that " 

He made no answel*. He leant against her with closed 
eyes. The hurricane of galloping hoofs rolled past. She 
kissed him lightly, tenderly " Tristram " 

His eyes opened. Their faces were quite close. Their 
gaze became fixed, intoxicated, deepening in intensity 
till it seemed as though they held each other, were drawn 
closer and closer in an embrace of fire which burnt out 
every intervening thought and consciousness. Suddenly, 
violently, he sprang up, pushing her from him, and lurched 
towards the door. 

" I've got to see after things there'll be an escort 
for you at the bridge-head later I'll keep guard 
outside " 

She also had risen as swift and soundless as a panther. 
She stood by the table upright and exultant, a point of 
light shining in her eyes. 

" Stay here here with me. If you go, it is because 
you're afraid " 

" Afraid- ? " He swung round, his hand still on the 

<ioor. " Of whom ? " 



203 

" Of me of yourself. You promised to be honest with 
me. This was to be our day of days for which no one 
should demand reckoning. It is not ended yet. You were 
honest once. That was when you thought we were going 
to be killed. Then you dared to own to what I know 
already that you belonged to me as I perhaps belong to 
you to our fate a fate neither of us can escape, Tris- 
tram " 

He remained motionless ; she could see the rise and fall 
of his great chest. 

" It isn't wise to be honest," he said thickly. " I'm 
afraid, if you like afraid of myself. You'd better let me 

go." 

" Back to your dreams ? But they're gone. You were 
just a grown-up boy, playing with a fancy. Now you are 
a man and I am a woman. We've got to deal with the 
reality now." 

" That's true." He came slowly towards her, reeling a 
little in his stride. " I want you body and soul.' 

" I know you told me " 

" When ? " 

" The night you lay unconscious in my arms." 

He put up his hand to his throat, as though something 
suffocated him. 

" You had better let me go," he repeated doggedly. 
" We're both thrown out of our course. At my best, I'm 
not much I've learnt that if I resist things it's because 
I don't care. And to-night " 

" You do care." 

" Yes," he said, between his teeth. 

" Why should we resist what is the most splendid thing 
in us ? " 

" Splendid ? " he echoed. " My my dreams were 
splendid. As you say 'they've gone. And the reality 
can there be any reality between us between a divinely 
gifted woman and the loutish fool who dreams about her ? 
If I'd thought so I'd have gone away but it seemed to- 
me that you were just kind and pitying amused even 
and I dared go on. And it is impossible we belong to 
different worlds life isn't the same thing to either of us." 

" We stand on different peaks of the same mountain 
range," she answered wistfully. " There is the same sun 
and sky and stars for us both. It seemed to me that we 
could have watched the sun rise together." 



i'<-4 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

He held out his hand as though to touch her, and then 
drew back, his face drawn and hard with the bitterness of 
mastered passion. 

-i You don't know what you're saying, Sigrid," he began 
harshly. " Nor what you are offering me " 

" Myself," she flung in, with joyful fearlessness. "My 
love for you." 

He began to pace the room backwards and forwards, 
in and out of the light, his hands clenched at his sides. 

"I can't oh, my dear it's hideous, so hopeless." 
His voice shook with rough suffering. " Even if things 
were different if I were cad enough you see, I am 
being desperately frank now don't you realise what 
it would mean can't you realise what you'd have to 
pay ? " 

She watched him patiently. Her first fierce energy had 
died down. The colour had faded from her cheeks, leaving 
her with a look of pathetic weariness. 

"I've never bothered about the price of things. It's 
been a curse in my life, I dare say ; I shall never be able to 
sink into a safe, comfortable mediocrity. I've burnt my 
boats 00 thoroughly for that. But, instead, I've had the 
highest and best in life.* I've always dared to live to the 
utmost, Tristram. I wanted to be perfect in my art, and 
I gave my soul to it. I lived more austerely than a nun, 
more grandly than an empress. Men wanted to love me, 
but I never thought of them. There was only one thing 
for me then it was like a mountain that I had sworn to 
climb. I climbed it. And then then it was over. You 
can't understand but I had paid the price to the last 
farthing. Now, before it's too late, I want the greatest, 
most splendid thing that perhaps a human being can pray 
for the happiness of loving." 

Her voice had dropped gradually, as though she had far- 
gotten him. He stood still, frowning at her with a hope- 
less misery in his exhausted eyes. 

" Sigrid if I'd asked you a month ago would you have 
been my wife ? " 

She started a little, seeming to shrink from what was 
to come. 

' ' No, Tristram not then." 

And now if things were different if it were pos- 
sible- ? " 

She shook her head. 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 205 

" No now least of all." She heard the sharp, painful 
catch in his breath. " It isn't possible that's just it," 
she added wearily. 

He resumed his restless pacing backwards and for- 
wards. 

" Then it was just a moment in your life you were offer- 
ing me I was to be part of a new and splendid episode 

He strode up to her and gripped her by the shoulders. 
'' Oh I'm not proud you're a creature of fire and air, 
and I'm one of the earth. You could have walked over 
me and I'd have been content. And yet I don't know. 
I might have cared too much. Perhaps I do care too much 
but there's something besides that now. I'm not a moral 
or even a strong man, but there's only to be one woman 
in my life the woman I marry." 

" Yes," she said listlessly. 

" And Anne has promised to be my wife." 

She looked up at him for an instant. It grew very 
still. 

" I might have told you that before. But it was to have 
been our day with rio one between us no one to demand 
reckoning. I cheated myself. I'm a rotten sentimentalist, 
dear and I've ended by doing something mean and low, 
like a thorough-paced cad. I deserve to lose all that I 
have lost." 

She shook her head. Something of her old detachment, 
a little of her demure humour, tinged with satire, shone in 
her eyes. 

" It's almost funny your blaming yourself. I hunted 
you down and I am going to marry Mr. Barclay." 

He swung round on his heel, white to the lips. 

" That man ! " he burst out. 

" That woman ! " she retorted cynically. 

He fought desperately for self-control. 

" Anne is a good woman " 

" Is she ? A better human being than Barclay ? Have 
you started to lay down the standard of values like the 
rest of us ? " 

For an instant they confronted each other as an- 
tagonists, then he made a gesture of despair, of fierce 
self-loathing. 

" No you're quite right. I don't judge I can't. 
I seem going down-hill fast with my theories my my 
infernal humanity. I can't believe it everything seems 



206 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

to have gone at once you didn't care it wasn't love } T ou 
felt for me " 

" Aren't you glad doesn't that relieve you of all respon- 
sibility ? " 

She watched him for a moment in silence. Then her 
face softened. He was standing against the table, his 
hand pressed upon it as though he held himself upright 
only by an effort of will. She laid her hand on his, diffi- 
dently, pityingly. " Tristram, we're both mad with pain, 
but don't let's hurt each other more than we must. It's 
no one's fault. We pick up threads in our lives carelessly 
and without a thought, and from day to day they weave 
themselves without our will into a pattern into tragedy. 
That's all there is to it, Tristram." He nodded silently, 
and she turned away from him, sighing. " It's quite quiet 
now. I'll go back to Gaya, Tristram." 

He went out beside her into the empty moon-lit street. 
A black shadow lay huddled against the wall, and in- 
voluntarily he bent and touched it. 

*' Dead ! " he muttered. 

" The feast of Siva ! " she said. " He who de- 
stroys ! " 

Her small pale face was lifted to the great silver disc 
above her. It seemed to his aching ej'es that she was no 
more than a frail white ghost a haunting spirit of the 
haunted moonlight. 

"Sigrid ! " he whispered. 

" Hush it's no good. We've got to go on Tristram 
Sahib " 

He walked beside her as she rode out of Heerut. It was 
very still no sound but that of her horse's hoofs and the 
soft swish of the long Arab tail. They went out across 
the plain. The conflagration of the day had burnt itself 
out, leaving grey ash and a few stains on the white fields. 
The temple lay sinister and watchful beneath the shadow 
of the jungle. It was as though all life had been swept 
away in a deluge of destruction. 

He looked up and saw how bravely she held herself. 

They came within a hundred yards of the bridge-head, 
and she drew rein. They could hear voices and the jangle 
of steel. He stood close to her, touching her, feeling the 
warmth of her, drinking in a faint elusive perfume which 
her own. His brain reeled. He was sick and famt 
at the nearness of the end. 



THE FEAST OF SIVA 207 

Suddenly she bent down and took his hand. He felt 
something clasp -itself about his wrist. 

" I can't give you up not altogether I can't, Tristram. 
I want to keep you in my life the dream of you .to haunt 
you a little to claim you a little in this world and the 
next for good and evil my Bracelet-brother " 

She was gone. He stood there, listening to the thud of 
her horse's hoofs. 



BOOK 11 
CHAPTER I 

MRS. COMPTON STANDS FIRM 

MONG all the noble, disinterested, selfless things 
I've done and my life is full of them this is the 
noblest, most disinterested, most selfless." 

Mrs. Compton stood back and surveyed the dainty Dres- 
den figure perched on the shelf with the dignity of renun- 
ciation. Mrs. Bosanquet sniffed. It was an imcorrected 
habit of hers when confronted with the incomprehensible 
and absurd. 

" I don't see what you're so upset about," she commented 
from her large and comfortable pose in the most accom- 
modating ehair of which the rather shabby-looking room 
boasted. " Why, I've seen things just as pretty as that 
in sixpenny bazaars. I'm sure Anne won't like it. Anne's 
my type. We both have our spiritual homes in a London 
suburb not a garden-suburb, my dear, with nasty modern 
folk in sandals and djibba but in the old kind, with good 
old Victorian plush everywhere. It's just a tragedy that 
we should have to live in India with queer specimens like 
the Judge and Tristram." She chuckled. The serene 
detachment with which she regarded her own weakn 
and the weaknesses of ker fellow-creatures had made lu-r 
an institution in Gaya, and was a good substitute for a 
talent. Mrs. Bosanquet could not make a joke or tell a 
funny story without disaster, but she could hold up mirrors 
for herself and her friends and grimace into them with 
most excellent results, as far as the gaiety of the station 
was concerned. It was whispered, however, that the 
Judge's somewhat halting progress towards higher honours 
was not a little due to his wife's passion for showing plain 
but superior people just what they looked like. 

208 



MRS. COMPTON STANDS FIRM 209 

Mary Compton continued to regard her treasure with 
wistful tenderness. 

" Tristram will like it, anyhow," she said. 

" H'm, poor Tristram ! " ' 

" Why ' poor Tristram ' ? " 

" Oh, I don't know a kind of inspiration. Anne did 
want him so badly, and now she's got him. It's a real 
triumph of goodness. Now she can pull long noses at 
dear, disgraceful Eleanor and be sentimental over dear, 
disgraceful Richard. Also she can make the place too hot 
for for that woman. Altogether a wonderful strategic 
position for any one quite so harmless as dear, respectable 
Anne." 

There was a distinct and unusual note of asperity in 
Mrs. Bosanquet's review of the situation, and Mary 
Compton turned to her with apparent puzzlement. But 
her eyes were bright and rather defiant, as though she was 
preparing for a long-expected engagement. 

" Whom do you mean by ' that woman ' ? " she as.ked, 
not very steadily. 

" My dear, there's only one ' that woman ' in Gaya as 
far as I know. The rest of us are what are we ladies ! 
or is that Victorian again ? in fact, I mean ' that 
woman/ and you're just pretending not to know whom 
I mean." 

" I won't pretend." Mrs. Compton steadied to the 
attack. "If you mean Sigrid f-" 

" I do, my dear." 

" Then I think it's mean and disloyal of you. You were 
one of the first to kow-tow to her 

Mrs. Bosanquet settled herself back fatly and serenely 
unoff ended. 

"I did I don't deny it. I kow-towed. Figuratively, 
I licked her boots. She could have walked over me if 
she'd had a fancy for mountaineering. She could have 
done a high-kick under the Viceroy's nose and I should 
have applauded to poor George's everlasting undoing. She 
could have eloped with that puppy Radcliffe. She could 
have become Rani of Gaya and worn a nose-ring. My 
ample bosom would still have welcomed her. But that 
man ! No. It's not only the man, but it's what must 
be in her to be able to touch him with a fire-tongs. There's 
a rotten streak in her there must be. And even if one 
got over that well, it isn't feasible. One can't swallow 



210 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

her without him, and it's too big a mouthful. Can you 
imagine sitting down to dinner with him ? " 

Mary Compton faced her visitor. She held herself very 
straight, and her brown, alert face had a rigid look about it 
which boded trouble. 

" Yes, I can," she said quietly. " It's a possibility 
everybody will have to face who comes here." 
" Mary ! " 

She nodded confirmation. She lost her first rather 
tremulous aggressiveness and became quiet and resolute, 
ker hazel eyes sparkling, with the zest of battle. 

'Yes, Archie and I figured it out as soon as we heard. 
We don't understand we don't pretend to and and we 
bate it. Nobody can loathe it more than I do. I've run 
counter to that man, and I can guess what we're in for. 
But we're going to stick to her. We didn't become her 
pals on the understanding that she was to marry one of 
our nice select circle. She was just Sigrid. Well, as far 
as we're concerned, she's Sigrid still. Her husband's her 
business." 

''Then," said Mrs. Bosanquet gravely, "you're in for 
a fight with the whole station and, what's more, with an 
unwritten law which is based on sound principles. ' East 
is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.' 
But they do meet occasionally, and it's then the trouble 
begins. We can do with a Rasaldu because we're not 
responsible for him it's like watching a foreigner eat 
peas with his knife but Barclay, no he's a scandalous, 
illegitimate relation, and the more he claims us the more 
uncomfortable we get. My dear, we shall fight to the 
last ditch, and you'll be beaten, and badly beaten. You'll 
damage yourselves, and that's about all." 

" Are you going to help beat us ? " Mary asked quietly. 
Mrs. Bosanquet pursed up her fat, good-natured lips. 

* I can't help myself. I'm really sorry " 

1 Rubbish ! If you were sorry, you wouldn't do it." 

' I've got to think of the Judge " 

' Well, I've got Archie. He's got his career; too." 
' He'll get into trouble with the regiment." 
' It's more than likely. We're not going to to behave 
like cads on that account." 

Mrs. Bosanquet got up, leaning heavily on her gold- 
topped stick. She had reddened slightly, but otherwise 
remained benignly unruffled. 



MRS. COMPTON STANDS FIRM 211 

" Quite right, my dear. I applaud. The trouble is that 
the majority of us are cads at the bottom that is, we think 
of our own safety first. I'm sure I do. The station will 
ostracise Sigrid has begun to ostracise her already. I 
can't stem the tide, and I shan't try." 

Mary Compton smiled bitterly. 

" How pleased Anne will be ! " 

"Eh?" 

" How pleased Anne will be," she repeated. 

Mrs. Bosanquet paused on the threshold of the verandah. 
She had become suddenly very angry. 

" You're a very annojdng woman, Mary Compton. You 
said that just to upset me. You know I can't bear Anne. 
In a previous existence, I believe we were next-door neigh- 
bours in our suburb, and that she played hymns on a 
pianola. Please don't mention Anne to me. ' ' 

" And you're fond of me, and you were fond of Sigrid," 
Mrs. Compton persisted, not without malicious amusement. 

Mrs. Bosanquet turned round as sharply as her bulk 
would allow. 

" She's driving up now," she said helplessly. " My 
dear, for goodness sake, get me out I don't want to meet 
her I haven't made up my mind I'm really not in a fit 
state have pity on an old woman with a weak heart and 
an Indian liver let me out by the back do, there's a 
dear I'll think it over I will really " 

" You can go out by the back," Mary Compton allowed 
coldly. " You'll probably give the butler a fit, but that 
doesn't matter. By the way, we're giving a dinner next 
week. We hope you and the Judge will honour us." 

Mrs. Bosanquet glared from the doorway. 

" I dislike you intensely," she said, " and I won't be 
bullied." 

" Xor will I," Mrs. Compton retorted, and then with an 
uncontrollable burst of venom. " You nasty old woman ! " 

The curtains fell with a furious rustle and Mary Compton 
returned to her Dresden shepherdess. Her interest was 
either very intense or very artificial, for she did not appear 
to hear the dog-cart which rattled up the drive, and started 
guiltily when she was called by name. 

She turned and saw Sigrid standing on the threshold. 
The latter still carried her lace parasol over her shoulder, 
as though she were not certain of coming in, and the 
tinted shadow which veiled her head and shoulders afforded 



212 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

a delicious contrast to the unrelieved whiteness of her 
dress. Mrs. Compton, not given to poetic comparisons, 
was driven in the first breath to the memory of the cool, 
intoxicating seductiveness of a narcissus flowering in the 
fresh winds of an English spring-time. But, in the second 
breath, she was realising, not without a little twinge of 
unreasonable disappointment, that the muslin dress was 
not English but Parisian, and that the graceful lines of 
the unpretentious garden-hat represented an expenditure 
which would have covered the greater part of Mrs. Comp- 
ton's yearly outfit. 

" Can I come in, or are you not at home ? " Sigrid 
asked. Her head was a little on one side and her eyes and 
mouth were quizzical. Mary Compton promptly kissed 
her and took charge of the parasol, which she handled with 
an almost masculine awe of its amazing daintiness. 

" Sigrid, I'm just thankful. I didn't know it was you. 
I didn't recognise the cart." 

" It wasn't mine." She hesitated for a second and her 
mouth was uncontrollably wry. " Jim brought me in." 

" Oh ! " For the life of her, Mrs. Compton could think 
of no better answer. She drew her visitor to the chair 
which Mrs. Bosanquet had just vacated. " Anyhow, you're 
just the person I was longing to see," she added lightly. 

Sigrid's lips quivered. 

" Am I ? Well, that's more than Mrs. Bosanquet would 
have said ! Poor lady, how she must have hurried. Which 
way did she go ? Out through the servants' compound ? " 

" My dear Sigrid ! " Mrs. Compton turned to her 
Dresden shepherdess to hide the fact that her face was 
suffused with the red of sheer panic. " Don't be so 
absurd ! Mrs. Bosanquet and I have been ' having words,' 
as Mary Ann would say. She was too cross to face any- 
body." 

The smile lingered about Sigrid's lips, as though 
secret thought amused her. Her eyes, dark shadowed and 
rather wistful, were fixed absently ahead. Mary Conipton 
trusted she had not noticed her own confusion. Suddenly, 
though she did not look up, she held out her hand. 

" What have you got there, dear." 

Mrs. Compton responded ^thankfully. She came like an 
eager child, kneeling at Sigrid's feet, the Dresden shep- 
herdess held up reverently for inspection. 

" My pet shepherdess. I don't think you've seen her 



MRS. COMPTON STANDS FIRM 213 

before, I've made up my mind to part with her. I've 
been almost in tears over it." 

" Have you 1 " 

Mary nodded. She was convinced that her visitor was 
not listening, but she rattled on determinedly, set on 
holding off an inevitable crisis. 

" Yes. You know, our little bits of china are just like 
children to us. In fact, they're substitutes only much 
nicer. They don't get the measles, they don't become 
increasingly expensive and unsatisfactory, they don't live 
to curse your, grey hairs. On the contrary, they become 
increasingly valuable and lovable. You see, when Archie 
and I married, we were desperately in love, but we hadn't 
a single high-class interest. We adored dancing and 
tennis and theatres and expensive food at expensive res- 
taurants. There w y ere times when we felt we hadn't a 
soul between us. You don't know how it worried us, 
because we do want to go on existing and having good 
times together in the next world, and we felt we never 
should if we didn't cultivate our higher selves or something. 
We thought of children, but you know we don't like chil- 
dren a bit, and we've forty cousins between us, so that 
there's no chance of our families dying out. When we 
found we both loved beautiful china, we almost wept for 
thankfulness. We knew then that there was something 
in us above food and drink. And there's our most precious 
bit. Isn't she a gem ? " . 

Sigrid took the shepherdess and considered it gravely. 

" Yes a real find. Tell me, what were you and Mrs. 
Bosanquet quarrelling about ? " She waited a moment, 
and then, as Mrs. Compton, very red and almost sullen in 
her aggrieved sense of thwarted diplomacy, remained 
silent, she went on quietly : " You were quarrelling about 
me. You were discussing whether to cut me or drop me 
gently ; isn't that so ? " 

Mrs. Compton looked up with a sudden resolution. 

" We were quarrelling about you." 

" That's good. That's frank of you, Mary." She put 
the shepherdess on the table and took the elder woman's 
hand tenderly between hers. " What did you decide ? " 

" There wasn't anything to decide where we're con- 
cerned. You can do what you like, Sigrid. Archie and 
I are far too much in love with you '* 

Sigrid laughed. 



214 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Don't get me into worse trouble by making out that 
I'm a husband-snatcher. So you're going to stick to me. 
And the others ? " 

"I don't know, dear." 

" And you you're both awfully shocked and horrified." 

Mrs. Compton's mouth tightened with the struggle. 
She did not flinch under the steady, penetrating eyes. 

" We don't understand that's all." 

" You loyal soul ! " She was thoughtfully silent for an 
instant, and then went on : " But you must understand at 
least a little. It's only fair, since you're going to fight my 
battle. If you'd decided differently, I shouldn't have 
told you. I'm an adventuress, Mary I've never pretended 
to be anything else not in a bad sense. I've lived very 
straightly in some ways, but I've always staked my all on a 
day. I've lived fabulously like a Roman Empress, Mary. 
And one day there was nothing left to stake. In ordinary 
language, I was bankrupt or near it. So I took what was 
left and set out round the world husband-hunting ' 

" Sigrid ! " 

" Yes, that doesn't sound very ideal, does it ? But in 
reality it was rather a wonderful quest. I was looking 
for a man who could give me all that I conceived necessary 
for life who^would share it with me in understanding and 
whom I could care for deeply." She smiled in self- 
mockery. " That sounds better, doesn't it ? But, un- 
fortunately, I never found him." 

" Never ? " 

There was significance in Mary Compton's eyes a 
challenge. 

" No, never. And three months ago, when Mr. Barclay 
asked me to marry him I had one hundred pounds and 
my passage left me in the world." 

Mrs. Compton sprang to her feet, her hands clasped in 
consternation. 

" Why didn't you tell us you could have come to us. 
Oh, no, I know that's nonsense we're poor as mire. 
But you could have gone back you could have danced 

again and in one night you would have made enough " 

She stopped short, arrested by something that passed over 
the other's face a shadow, a wince of physical, deadly 
pain. " Sigrid, couldn't you " 

" Yes, I could have done that. And the money would 
have paid for a gorgeous funeral." 



MRS. COMPTON STANDS FIRM 215 

" Sigrid don't joke be serious " 

" I am serious " Her voice hardened. " Horribly 

serious. One night's triumph, if you like and then the 
end. That's what I came to tell you. No one else knows 
except Smithy. It's my secret. It's yours now." 

Mary Compton stood transfixed. The colour had faded 
from her face, leaving it sallow with fear and grief. She 
bit her lips, trying desperately to hold back an over- 
whelming rush of tears. She hated tears. Now they 
choked her. Through a mist, she saw Sigrid lay her hand 
lightly on her side. " A little affair of the heart c'est 
tout." 

Mrs. Compton dropped on her knees. Reckless of the 
expensive gown, she buried her face on Sigrid's breast, 
clinging to her with a defiant fierceness. 

" Oh, my dear, my dear and we didn't know. I can't 
believe it you so strong so perfect " 

" Yes almost perfect." She passed her hand caress- 
ingly over the grey-flaked, curly head much as though the 
grief was not her own. " Perfect in my Art almost per- 
fect in body. But the ' almost ' was the price I paid. 
Oh, Mary, just once again to glide out into the lights, to 
hear the music to lose the sea of gaping faces to rise 

right up on the crest of living " She drew herself 

erect, her eyes burning. " Oh, my Art, the greatest Art 
of all ! Scientists, musicians, painters just so many lop- 
sided distortions ! But I was the soul and the body, the 
perfect union. I was music and poetry and speech. I was 
a miracle greater than the dreams of science. I was the 

perfect human body with an inspired soul " Her voice 

failed. The life died out of her eyes. She sank back, 
laughing brokenly. " Isn't that absurd 1 -funny for I 
am going to marry Mr. Barclay." 

There was a long, heavy silence. Both women faced the 
tragedy, the one with the bitter knowledge that her under- 
standing could only" be dim and incomplete. She roused 
herself at last, disengaging herself gently from the enfolding 
arm, rubbing the tears from her cheeks. 

" Sigrid there were other men good men of one's 
own blood " 

" Oh yes, I know. There was one in England. I meant 
but things happened. I can't explain. You've got to 
take that much on trust. Mr. Barclay offered me more 
than money." 



216 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" You mean ? " 

" Silence." 

Mary Compton rose slowly to her feet. She was quiet 
now and very grave. She gazed at the woman in the 
chair and realised for the first time a change in her. The 
old serenity, the laughing, god-like attitude towards life 
had gone. She had the wan dignity of a fighter who, from 
a poet of easy vantage, has gone down into the arena. 

" I don't want to know any more. I do take you on 
trust." 

" And there was more in it than that/' Sigrid went on, 
following the train of her thoughts. " It was a bargain. 
I, too, had something to offer. That suited my pride. I 
could do for him what I could not have done for another 
man. I could give him what he desires, I believe, more 
than life- " 

"Position ?" 

" Yes." 

Mrs. Compton shook her head. Her seriousness was 
now business-like, scarcely touched with emotion. 

" And you think you are strong enough ? " 

" I don't know. I must be. Everything that matters 
to me now depends on it." 

" If you went away to another part of India oh, I 
don't want you to go I'm trying to think only of your 
good 

" It would be useless. I have won my position here. I 
have friends. Anywhere else I should just be his wife." 

" His wife you ! Oh, it's hardly -bearable ! Just 
because we are your friends it hurts worse." She ruffled 
her hair with an unhappy hand. " Sigrid, you can count 
on us, of course. I believe you may count on Mrs. Bosan- 
quet, and the Judge follows automatically. She's furious 
just now, but she has a regular school-girl rave on you and 
it will be too strong for her. I dare say the other women 
will follow. Even Anne She saw Sigrid move 

restlessly in her chair, and hastily swung off, moved by 
she knew not what consciousness of pain. " It's the men 
who'll be the hardest to fight. They'd forgive you most 
things things we wouldn't forgive a vulgar intrigue, an 
elopement with somebody else's husband but this is 
against their code. Men are conventional, women moral. 
It's the one vital difference between the saxes. And then 
there are other troubles. Things are rocky in (iaya. \Ve 



MRS. COMPTON STANDS FIRM 217 

know that the Regiment is disaffected. The new Colonel 
makes no headway. Boucicault's work was too thorough 
for that. Then there's Rasaldu. He regards your en- 
gagement as a sort of insult and, weak tool though he 
is, we've got to keep him in hand. All that counts against 
you. Oh, it will be a fight, though we shall have Tristram. 
He's always ready for a lost cause " 

She stopped again. Sigrid had risen to her feet. She 
seemed not to have heard the last sentence. She picked 
up the Dresden shepherdess with a light, reckless hand. 

" How pretty it is ! Why are you parting with it ? 
Who's the lucky recipient ? " 

" It's a wedding present." She felt a sick misery creep 
over her. " For Anne and Tristram ? " 

" ' Ah, yes of course for Anne and Tristram " Her 

voice was very level and matter-of-fact, rather indifferent, 
as though she were echoing mechanically something that 
scarcely reached her intelligence. 

Then a shadow fell across the sunlight patch on the worn 
matting, and both women looked up. James Barclay 
stood on the verandah. He raised his hand in a military 
salute. 

"I've come for Sigrid, Mrs. Compton/'-he said. "She 
was such an unconscionable time, and one is naturally 
impatient. Please forgive, if you were discussing secrets." 

His dark eyes were on Mrs. Compton's face, intent, 
curious, vaguely appealing. The thrill of loathing and 
contempt which had passed through her gave place to a 
bitter amusement. He was so wonderfully, correctly 
dressed, so desperately at ease. She stared back at him, 
burning with her first instinctive revolt against his presence. 
Then she remembered. She glanced at Sigrid, who was 
still toying idly with the Dresden shepherdess. Some- 
thing in the resolute submission of that proud, self-reliant 
figure set fire to all the chivalry in Mrs. Compton's blood. 
She turned again. She heard herself speaking : 

" We're very pleased won't you both stay for tea ? 
And and I was just saying I'm giving a dinner next 
week to celebrate your engagement if it suits you " 

It was done. She felt as though she had cut through 
a dam, and that the torrent was on her. She saw Sigrid 
look up swiftly and then glance at the man by the window. 

He bowed gravely, but she caught the triumphant flash 
in his eyes. 



218 'TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" It is very kind. We shall be delighted this afternoon 
we've an engagement, haven't we, Sigrid ? " 

It was all Mrs. Compton remembered clearly. Looking 
back on the scene, she had a vague recollection of her own 
voice flowing on ceaselessly over a seething inner conflict, 
of a pale face watching her, half in pity, half in gratitude. 
Presently, when they had gone, she flung herself down by 
Sigrid's empty chair and cried with misery and humiliation. 
And, when the last tears had been shed, she picked up the 
Dresden shepherdess and put her back in her place in the 
glass cabinet, and turned the key with an air of locking up 
evil genii. Then she thought of her husband for the 
first time. 

" Poor old Archie ! " she muttered remorsefully. 
" Poor Archie ! " 

Meantime, Barclay drove his showy cob towards the 
dak bungalow. 

"So -you've managed it," he said. "You've really 
managed. You're wonderful even more wonderful than I 
thought." 

She drew farther away from him. 

" I have kept iny part of the bargain." 

He laughed. 

" Which is fortunate for every one concerned." 

" Keep your part ! " 

He made her a little bow, his face suddenly flushed and 
heavy- looking. 

" As much as it lies in human nature, dear lady," he 
answered. 



CHAPTER II 

A HOME-COMING 

MRS. BOUCICAULT welcomed her daughter with the 
affable irresponsibility which had become her 
habitual mood. She bore no grudge not more 
than a steam-roller bears towards the stones it has ground 
into acquiescence. She had got what she wanted and 
was quite pleased that Anne should have been equally 
successful. No one witnessing the warm, rather absent 
minded embrace could have guessed at a very bitter part 
ing or at a wedding at which the bride's family was con 
spicuous by its absence. As a matter of fact, the bitterness 
had been on Anne's side and the wedding had been so 
recklessly hurried on that Mrs. Boucicault's excuse that she 
could not leave poor Richard at such short notice sounded 
acceptable. Gaya knew perfectly well that the Governor- 
General's visit and its attendant gaieties was the real 
reason, but extended a charitable sympathy, and en- 
deavoured to keep Anne in happy ignorance, guessing that 
her understanding would be altogether of a different kind. 

Mrs. Boucicault kissed Tristram on both cheeks, putting 
her hands on his shoulder in order to pull herself up to 
the necessary altitude. 

" My dears, how well you both look ! Really, I believe 
you got married just for a month of the hills. How I did 
envy you ! We've been positively baked alive. I nearly 
bolted, but of course your poor father could not have been 
moved. It was terrible." 

She began to wander about the newly furnished room in 
a restless, over-excited way, giving neither the time to 
reply. " You must come and admire everything. We all 
did our bit. I had some furniture sent from Lucknow. 
Don't you like the chairs ? They're a home product. 
Mrs. Bosanquet gave such a lovely tea service. My ayah 
8 219 



220 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

smashed a cup in the unpacking, but these accidents will 
happen. I hope the servants will be all right. You both 
know how they steal." She led them through the length 
and breadth of the bungalow, whose decoration had the 
charm of haphazard good taste. As Mrs. Boucicault had 
said, every one in Gaya had taken a hand in Tristram's 
home and given of their best, attaining an imconventional 
success. But Anne followed silently and without expres- 
sion of approval. Her natural composure of manner 
seemed to have developed. She looked very well and much 
older. Her girlishness had been completely swallowed up 
in a rather self-conscious womanhood, and much that her 
girlhood had promised had been fulfilled. The line of her 
mouth had stiffened. Her very clothes, well-made but 
severe, expressed a character already set within definite 
and inelastic boundaries. Once or twice she glanced back 
at her husband and her eyes were full of a half timorous, 
hah' proprietary tenderness. 

" Do you like it all, Tris ? " 

He nodded, smiling down at her. 

" It's first-rate. I don't know how they managed it." 

" Yes it's quite nice. Of course, we shall have to re- 
arrange things. It's all so patchy, isn't it ? " 

He did not answer. Mrs. Boucicault came back to the 
drawing-room and gave them tea. It was then, seated, 
facing her with her back to the light that Anne noticed the 
too vivid red of her mother's lips, the tinge of artificial 
colour on the grey cheeks. Her own eyes hardened a 
little. 

" Is father better ? " she asked coldly. " Is there any 
change ? I asked you to write to me, mother, but you 
never did." 

Mrs. Boucicault helped herself daintily to cake. 

' ' There's no change at least, not for the better. He 
had Sir Gilbert Foster here to see him. He happened to be 
in Lucknow, and, of course, I've spared no effort no 
expense. Sir Gilbert agreed that there was very little 
hope. Sometimes I think it would be more merciful if the 
end came. He is so utterly helpless. He just lies there 
and broods. Even the official attempt to get at some 
clue with regard to the man who attacked him dosen't seem 
to rouse him and Richard was always so anxious to get 
square with an enemy, wasn't he ? Of course, I go and 
sit with him every day and tell him our doings. It's very 



A HOME-COMING 221 

dull for me, but one has to do all one can. Didn't I 
write ? I'm so sorry. I meant to, but we've been so 
busy " 

" I've no doubt," Anne interposed, with contemptuous 
bitterness. " Gaya has been quite gay, I hear." 
,Mrs. Boucicault smiled happily. 

" Yes, quite gay. And very upset into the bargain. 
It's like living on an eruption or a volcano or whatever it 
is I mean. I suppose you've heard, Tristram ? The 
regiment is just seething with sedition. Poor Richard 
kept the lid on wonderfully, and now he's gone we're all 
waiting for the lid to come off with a bang. Colonel Arm- 
strong is a dear, but he's got beautiful democratic ideas, 
and bullies and distrusts his equals more than any one I 
ever knew. So we're all waiting. And things have been 
made so deliciously worse by the advent of Mr. Barclay. 
You've heard of that, too ? He's going to marry Sigrid 
Fersen in two months. Awful, isn't it ? " 

Anne turned her eyes to her husband. 

" It's revolting," she said. " He's the kind of man a 
woman of her type would choose. The least she can do 
is to leave Gaya." 

" She's riot going to, though. The whole station is a, 
divided camp and armed to the teeth about it. Half of us 
want to cut her and half want to swallow him for her 
sake. Mary Compton and Mrs. Bosanquet are for swallow- 
ing and so am I. I don't see why people shouldn't do 
as they like." 

Anne's lips curled. 

" You would choose the easy way, mother." 

Mrs. Boucicault shot her a glance, which was not entirely 
free from malice. 

" Hardly easy in this case. Think of the complications ! 
Think of Rasaldu going about like a comic thunderstorm ! 
Think of our pet official snobs. Oh, we shall live to see 
exciting times. More tea, Tristram ? " 

He shook his head and placed a half-emptied cup on the 
table. Throughout Mrs. Boucicault's garrulous chatter 
he had been watching her narrowly and almost as though 
he were listening to something beneath her words. Now he 
turned and met his wife's eyes with an unflinching direct- 
ness. It seemed to check an impulsive answer. She got 
up sharply. 

"I'd better go and help the ayah unpack," she said. 



222 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" I'll drive round and see father to-night, mother. Let him 
know." 

" Of course, dear. He'll be so delighted. I'll go home 
now and leave you two to settle down. Tell the syce to 
bring round the cart, will you, Tristram ? " 

On parting, she kissed them again with her new absent- 
minded effusiveness and patted Anne's shoulder. "Jt' 
so nice to see you happy at last, child. By the way, you've 
never asked after poor Owen and he's so devoted." 

A faint flush crept into Anne's cheeks. For an instant, 
at least, her composure wavered. 

" I hadn't forgotten. How is he ? " 

" Dreadfully disfigured, poor fellow and his sight 
affected. But he goes on with his work just the same like 
a real martyr. It's such a pity the natives don't appreciate 
it. They pretend he has the evil eye, and run away from 
him. Terrible, isn't it ? " 

" I shall have to look him up," Tristram observed. 

"Do you're so clever." She took her place in the 
dogcart with the lightness and ease of a much younger 
woman. Then as the syce jerked the reins, she bent 
down. " Tristram, will you be coming round, too, this 
evening ? " 

" Yes," he answered gravely. 

" Well when you've seen Richard will you have a 
talk with me a professional talk ? I believe I'm getting 
an Indian liver, and the natives seem to have such a holy 
terror of your concoctions that I'm sure they're effective. 
Will you ? " 

" Rather ! " He laughed, though the blue eyes remained 
seriously intent. " And I'll bring my deadliest blue pills 
with me," he promised. 

As the cart swung through the compound gates Mrs. 
Boucicault turned her head and looked back. Tristram 
waved, but Anne gave no sign. Her face was set and hard 
as Tristram turned to her. He slipped his arm with a 
rather shy affection through hers. 

" Aren't you satisfied, dear ? " 

She looked up at him smiling, but perfunctorily as a 
grown-up smiles at a child, concealing her real feeling. 

" Oh, so satisfied with you and the home, Tris. But I 
wish mother hadn't welcomed us. She makes me sick to 
the heart the way she talks about father. I don't want ta 
hate her and yet sometimes I can't help myself And I 



A HOME-COMING 223 

didn't want our first day here to be spoilt by hatred. It's 
like a bad omen." 

He was silent for a moment. Had she been looking at 
him she might have seen the faint change which passed 
over his features. It was a change that had come to them 
more than once during these two months among the hills 
a kind of troubled perplexity of uneasiness. 

" Anne, I'm not satisfied with your mother," he began 
suddenly. " I don't like the look of her. I believe she's 
hiding something from us " 

She interrupted him with an impatient, scornful gesture. 

"It's just her way. She's always imagining there's 
something the matter with her. When father was almost 
dying, she worried the doctor about a petty ailment of 
her own. I think she does it to cover the way she 
behaves " 

" Aren't you a wee bit hard on her ? " 

'' Hard ? Tris, surely it's right to be hard sometimes ? 
One can't be lenient towards what's wrong. And it is 
wrong to be cruel, and our duty is towards the sick and 
sorrowful, no matter what they've done. Don't you think 
so?" 

" Yes," he answered thoughtfully. " Perhaps our only 
duty." 

She shook her head. 

" Our first duty is to God." Then, with a quick move- 
ment that was an instant's reversion to her girlhood, she 
slipped her hand into his, pressing it, and rubbed her cheek 
against his shoulder. " Tris-, that sounded as though I were 
criticising. I didn't mean it. You're so good-natured and 
tender-hearted perhaps too forgiving. But at the bottom 
we think and feel the same about things, I know. Only 
you're too good for me." 

" Don't let's talk about our respective goodness," he 
implored lightly. " We shall quarrel. Let's go and pros- 
pect for your rose-garden instead." 

They went down the steps together, her hands linked 
over his arm, and followed the path of sunlight through 
the wilderness of wild-growing flowers and high luxuriant 
trees which Gaya perhaps deliberately had left untouched. 

" We shall have to make it trim and neat," Anne said, 
sighing. " My roses will never grow in all this shadow. 
Besides, it's so untidy. Those big palms ought to be cut 
down, too, don't you think ? " 



224 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

She always appealed to him diffidently, yet as though his 
agreement was an assured thing. He looked up, catching 
a line of azure between the foliage. It seemed to him that 
for an instant he breathed the scented virgin air of the 
forests, that soon night would be creeping in stealthily 
between the slender trunks of the trees and that he would 
lie full length by the camp-fire and watch the distant 
beacons flame up in the violet darkness. It was a picture 
flashed from his memory, perhaps in contrast to those 
smooth, cool, civilised days among the hills. He closed his 
eyes to it. 

" You must have things as you like them, dear," he 
said. " I want you to have everything everything that 
makes you happy." 

" Really ? Do you mean it ? " There was a breathless 
eagerness in her voice, no mere acknowledgment. He 
paused an instant and looked down into her earnest face. 
In a vague, instinctive way she had often resented his 
eyes or rather the something which their clouded 
introspection held from her. Now she thrilled under 
them. They were clear, intensely, fiercely living. 

" Yes, I do mean it," he said passionately. " Anne 
if I thought you happy, I should be content. If I knew of 
anything that would give you only a moment's pleasure, 1 
wouldn't rest till I brought it you. I want you to be 
happy more than I can say." 

She flushed girlishly. 

" Do you love me so much as all that, Tris ? " 

" Isn't that proof ? " he asked back. 

" You are very, very good to me." Still she held her 
ground, watching him with her strange mingling of diffi- 
dence and conscious power. " Tris 1 do want something 
awfully something that will make me perfectly con- 
tent " 

He smiled. 

" Then it's yours, if a poor Major can squeeze it out of 
his official fortune." 

" I want my father here with us." She saw no change 
in him, and yet, absorbed as she was in her own appeal, 
she felt the sudden check in his breathing, the tightening 
of the muscles under her hand. She bepame reasonlcssly 
frightened. " Tris, is it too much to ask ? " 

He turned and continued to walk on. 

" No I meant what I said just now. Only I don't 



A HOME DOMING 225 x 

understand, Anne in the old days before the accident 
you were so afraid of him. You dreaded him I think 
you hated him " 

" Don't ! " she interrupted. " You can't think how it 
hurts to be reminded of all that. Yes, he frightened me. 
He made us all unhappy. Now he is he.lpless broken. 
Sometimes, looking back, it seems to me that we were to 
blame that perhaps mother was not the wife for him 
that she didn't understand " 

He crushed back the exclamation that had risen to his 
lips. He dared not admit even to himself that it had been 
one of bitter impatience. 

" That doesn't seem quite fair, Anne. He may have 
been ill, mad, if you like. It's the best one can say. " 

" He was considered a fine soldier," she returned, rather 
primly. " His men worshipped him." 

" You live in the past, dear," he persisted. 

Something had risen between them, a pulsing, quick- 
breathing irritation. She pressed his arm. 

" You don't understand," she said forgivingly. 

" No, perhaps not." They had reached the gates of the 
compound, and, arrested by sounds whose thrill for ever 
outlives familiarity, they stood still, their faces turned to 
the open high-road. Amidst the rattle of drums, and the 
shrill call of the fifes, the regiment slogged its way sullenly 
back to the barracks. The dust rose in silver columns under 
the tramping feet. The red sun, lying already westwards, 
fell aslant the dark, brooding faces and made a quivering 
stream of fire of the fixed bayonets. The new Colonel 
rode at the head of the column, chatting with his Adjutant. 
He had a resolute serenity about him, an unimaginative 
contentment. Tristram, saluting, knew that for him 
there was no significance m that fiery line winding its way 
up the hill in black silence no hint of the future. Only 
the common, daily routine. 

He heard Anne's voice at his side, broken and piteous. 

" Oh, if only father were there at the head of his men 
if we could only bring him back " 

" I can't do that," he answered gently. " If I could, I 
would. I never realised how much you cared. It's taught 
me a lot about life your caring. But if you think he 
wishes it he must come to us, whatever it may cost." 

She smiled at him through her tears. 

" I know he would wish it. Mother is cruel to him I 



226 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

know she feels cruelly. He will be happy with us. He will 
get to understand that we both care oh, Tristram, I can't 
thank you enough. I promise you it shan't trouble you." 

A scarcely perceptible line deepened about his fine 
mouth. 

" Don't promise rashly, dear. And remember, I said, 
whatever it costs 

It became very still about them. The tramp of feet and 
the rattle of drums grew muffled and rumbled into silence. 
They could see the column wind its way up in and out of 
the broken avenue of trees like a monstrous glittering 
serpent. The dust sank back peacefully in golden particles, 
and with the deepening silence there came a sense of relief, 
of healing. The vague spirit of irritation and opposition 
laid itself. 

Tristram drank in the silence. In that subconscious 
self where no thought or desire is formulated, he prayed 
for its continuation. He held himself motionless so that 
no movement of his should rouse his companion from her 
seeming abstraction. For a moment, she had relaxed 
her hold of him and he shrank back into himself, into a 
loneliness where he seemed to draw breath, to lay down a 
burden which he never acknowledged, and to stretch his 
cramped soul in exquisite relief. The perfumed air, the 
golden lights and splendid purples of a brief twilight 
penetrated below his senses, and with light, magic fingers 
opened the closed doors behind which he had imprisoned 
all that the woman beside him could not understand, all 
that was repugnant to her. They came out, these ghostly 
figures of his fancy, and played before him. -At first they 
had been pale and wan, but as they drew in light and^tir, 
they regained their youth and glowed with their old 
splendour. He watched them, fascinated. His blood 
hegan to nifcve more swiftly. A thought shaped itself out 
of the depths the thought of the nights and days out 
there on the fringe of the* jungle of the work that would 
claim him back of life as it might still be to him. Service ! 
that remained. 

He felt Anne's fingers tighten on his arm. 

" Look ! " she said. 

The scorn and anger in her voice stung him. The lights 
grew suddenly dim and the fancies faded. He looked the 
way she pointed, and his pulses' stood still. Two riders 
were coming slowly down the hill towards them. Their 



A HOME-COMING 227 

white-clad figures shone ghostly in the shadow of the trees. 
They came on, up to the gates. Tristram's pulses resumed 
their beating, heavily, suffocatingly. His hand went up 
to his helmet, and the fair-haired woman on the Arab bowed 
with grave indifference. The man beside her smiled, show- 
ing his white teeth. Then it was over. He heard the man's 
voice break on the silence he was making some ironic 
comment and then the beat of horses' hoofs at a mad 
gallop. 

Anne's eyes were on his face. 

" Tris, how could you ! " she said bitterly. 

He turned and looked at her. He felt stupid and heavy, 
as though some one had struck him between the eyes ; but 
even then he realised her expression, the unbreakable will 
showing through the mask of her femininity. 

" What should I have done ? " he asked, and was con- 
scious of a wry amusement. Beneath the surface their 
wills grappled together. She was so small, so strong. He 
would be so utterly beaten. 

" I don't know You didn't even wait for her to bow. 
It's not for me to dictate surely it wasn't necessary to 
know her she's outside the pale and that man oh, it 
was sickening, horrible ! " 

Her voice quivered. He put his arm about her shoulders. 

" Did you want me to to cut them ? " he asked. 

" Why not ? I think it would have been better to do 
what we must do right from the beginning. We can't 
know them, Tris." 

" I must," he responded deliberately. 

He felt her whole body stiffen. 

" Why ? " Her voice was very low now, subdued so as 
to cover its real timbre. " Why ? " she repeated. 

" Because I have no reason not to," he returned. 

" A half-caste and an adventuress " 

Something tortured and leashed within him leapt up, 
flinging itself savagely against his self-control. 

" What is an adventuress, Anne ? A woman who ven- 
tures ? What better thing can any of us do ? " He spoke 
half jestingly, striving to ward off the issue that was to 
arise between then! ; but there was no pity in the hard 
eyes which she lifted for a moment to his face. 

" Are you going to be one of those who are prepared to 
sneer at our morality at the whole prestige of our race ? " 
she asked. 
8* 



228 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Even then he marvelled at her. She had been so young, 
so childish. She challenged him now with a mature fixity 
of outlook and of character. She might have been an old 
woman. And he knew that it was no sudden develop- 
ment. It had been there always, a deep-rooted inheri- 
tance of her kind. 

" I cannot be other than I am," he said steadily. " As 
to prestige doesn't it belong to our English greatness to 
shoulder our responsibilities ? We're responsible to a man 
like Barclay. He belongs to us more than any man of our 
own blood. Don't you realise he's our fault we've flung 
him into his position. We've made him what he is. He 
had an English father Anne, and he has a claim on me I 
cannot and will not ignore." 

He saw the curl of her lips. It was an answer straight 
from those past generations stronger than all reason. 

" We must stamp out our sins not foster them. And 
that woman^-do you expect me to meet her the Rajah's 
mistress this man's bought property ' 

" Anne ! " A sick horror surged up within him horror 
of his own passionate anger horror in some dim way 
mingled with a vicarious shame. He turned away from 
her. But the instinctive chivalry which prompted the 
action was unnecessary. She held her ground with the 
resolution of justification. " Anne, you're speaking reck- 
lessly. I know that what you say is not true. And even 
if it were I can't judge other people it's not in me I 
feel no right in me to judge. There's only one distinction 
I can make between men and women the happy and the 
unhappy, the blessed and the cursed ' 

" The good and the evil," she interrupted stonily. 
" There is only one morality, Tristram 

He drew himself to his full and splendid height. The 
red sunlight glowed on his impassioned face, in his blazing 
eyes. For an instant he forgot her became free, breath- 
ing in the glory of his faith. 

" That ye love one another," he exclaimed with happy 
triumph. Her eyes sank. For that instant her instinct 
told her that she could not touch him that he had passed 
beyond her reach. But, behind their lids, her eyes were 
bright with a bitter resentment. 

" Do you love Si^rid Fersen, Tris ? People said you 
did " 

He came slowly back down to the level, arid country 



A HOME-COMING 229 

where he was to live his life. He stared down into her 
white face. " Do you, Tris ? " 

He caught her by the shoulders, forcing her to look at 
him . Her eyes were sullen and unhappy. Their unhappiness 
shattered his anger, changing it to a burning remorse and 
pity. 

" You're my wife. There can be no other woman for 
me but you. That's my little fragment of morality. Isn't 
that enough ? " 

" You stand up for her " she persisted, with a sudden 

break in her hard voice. She put up her hands, clinging to 

him. " Oh, Tris, you make me afraid " she cried 

miserably. " I couldn't bear to lose you " 

He held her with a desperate tenderness. He had groped 
his way to the source of her outburst, and the dawning 
knowledge threw a pitiless light into his own heart. All 
the antagonism had gone. In the moment's revulsion he 
saw her as justified. 

" If it was because I loved her, I shouldn't fight for her," 
he said hoarsely. " Don't you understand it's not only 
her it's Barclay, too it's every one. I'd trample on 
every feeling I had for your sake but not on my religion 
don't you understand ? " He knew she could not, that 
the word " religion " had rung like blasphemy in her ears. 
But she leant against him, crying wearily like a tired child. 

" And this is our home-coming, Tris ! " 

" It makes a mockery of all my promises ! " he answered 
sadly. " What shall I do to make you happy again, little 
Anne ? " 

She bent and kissed his hand. " Oh, Tris, if we could 
only go away from here from Gaya somewhere where we 
should get away from every one every one who makes me 
afraid couldn't we ? We could start afresh with no one 
to come between us ? " 

It had grown very dark. Though she was watching 
again, she could not read his expression. And he was 
looking past her, straight into the vision which she had 
called up before him. But it was a vision of all that had 
been. He saw the old land-marks the river and the long, 
broken roads, the camping-place beneath the trees, the 
familiar faces whose solemn trustfulness he had fought 
for with his best years, with all the ardour of his youth. 
He saw the dreams he had dreamed the hours tight packed 
with action, with all the glory of battle and victory. And 



230 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

now to begin again to cut new paths through the waste 
tracts, to call up fresh springs of faith and hope from desert 
ground. He felt himself suddenly old and very tired. 

" It should be easy enough," he said gently. " I could 
get a new district I'm not popular and they've just left 
me here but they'd do that for me, I dare say. Yes, we 
will go away and start again, Anne." 

She was silent for a moment. She was breathing quietly 
and contentedly. In a flash of knowledge which he de- 
spised and hated, he knew that they had fought together 
and that she had won. 

" You're so good, Tris, so good to me. Sometimes we 
don't quite understand each other. But we're husband 
and wife, and that's all that really matters, isn't it ? " 

He nodded. The tiredness stupefied him, bewildered 
him. He fancied he saw something white glide in among 
the trees a slender figure that moved like a very spirit 
of Life. He fancied there was music in the stillness afar 
off, intoxicating. 

" All that matters, Anne M 



CHAPTER III 

MRS. BOTJCICAULT CALLS THE TUNE 

THE male-nurse had put the carefully shaded lamp on 
the table behind the bed and gone off to take an 
unobtrusive share in the festivities. Colonel Arm- 
strong had lent the regimental band for the occasion, and 
what with the music and the superabundance of cham- 
pagne and the pliability of the native character, the male- 
nurse recognised golden opportunities for a break in the 
tedium of his duties. Possibly he was quite justified. It 
was a dull business nursing a patient who could not even 
curse at you. Moreover, there was nothing to do. What 
could be done for a log that lay day in, day out, staring 
sightlessly up at the white ceiling, whose every desire, if 
desire still Jived behind that appalling silence, had to be 
guessed at ? 

So the male-nurse threw a professional glance round the 
scene of his activities, noted the perfection of orderliness, 
and went his way. 

Boucicault continued to stare upwards. The shadows 
were massed against the ceiling like sultry, motionless 
clouds. They loomed over the withering body stretched 
out beneath them in the rigidity of death, their stifling 
intensity loaded with an overpowering perfume. There 
were flowers everywhere on the table, at the foot of the 
bed, on the chest of drawers, on the shelves, lighting the 
room's barren simplicity with fierce, burning colour. Their 
vividness seemed a part of the music that came light- 
footed into the sombre hush an echo of the murmuring 
voices, the merry jangle of harness, the patter of naked 
feet, the clink of glasses. The room was like a white- 
cliffed, deserted island in the midst of a moonlit, tossing 
ocean of life. The waves lapped the walls, and rolled back 
from them as from something alien and repellent. 

231 



232 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Or again, but for those eyes staring up at the ceiling, 
the place might have been a death-chamber. There was 
the same orderliness, the same white silence,' the many 
flowers. And the long, shrivelled body outlined on the 
bed was quieter than any living thing. 

A voice broke from the distant murmur and came nearer. 
It was a woman's voice, rather strained and high pitched. 
Something white and shimmering fluttered against the 
darkness on the verandah. 

" I'm sure it's awfully nice of you, Tristram. He'll be 
so pleased. I usually go in, but this evening I was too' 
busy. Don't stay too long: " 

The eyes distended and then closed. Perhaps the brain 
behind them became conscious of a vital change in the 
stillness, for a moment later they opened again and rested 
full and direct on the man standing at the foot of the bed. 
They stared at each other dumbly. The eyes became ironic 
and cruel in their knowledge of power. But, as the man 
moved and came nearer, they followed him, showing the 
whites like those of a sick animal. 

Tristram sat down on the edge of the bed. The light 
from behind the bed drifted on to his face. He looked 
weary and composed, and there was no trace of discomfort 
under that watching enmity. 

" I had to come, Boucicault," he said quietly. " It got 
on my nerves the thought of your being alone like this. 
You may not want to see me, but, on the other hand, it 
may give you some satisfaction. I don't carry my secret 
very well, do I ? " He spoke without bitterness or sarcasm, 
and the eyes gleamed. " And then there are things I 
have to talk to you about," he added. 

The regimental band glided into a Viennese waltz, and 
the intoxicating measure came swaying through the silence. 
The eyes winced, and then steadied angrily, scornfully. 
Tristram stretched out his hand and touched the coverlet. 
There was something groping and passionately seeking in 
the movement an inarticulate appeal. 

" Boucicault it's rotten perhaps to come and preach 
don't let it eat into you all this. Don't judge harshly. 
I'm not speaking of myself, you know that. I'm thinking 
of your wife. You lie there dumb and helpless I don't 
know what's going on in your mind. I can't understand. 
Well, it's like that with most of us. Words and actions 
don't matter much. We just hide behind them. But if 



MRS. BOUCICAULT CALLS THE TUNE 233 

we could get down to the motive of each other's cruelty, 
there would be neither hatred nor condemnation at the 
worst, pity." He was silent an instant, his strong hands 
clasped between his knees. He had spoken sadly and 
with a certain abstraction and unconsciousness of his 
hearer, which lent his appeal force and took from it all 
hint of patronage and mockery. " I say all this because 
you must think a great deal lying there a great deal of 
the past. For your own peace, it would be better to judge 
gently a woman you must have cared for. Sometimes, 
behind our worst frivolity, there is a great bitterness " 

The eyes sneered. Tristram met their ferocious gibe un- 
flinchingly. 

" That is one thing I had to say. And then there's 
Anne. When I asked her to be my wife, I didn't know 
what you would feel about our marriage and I didn't care 
very much. You had made her pretty wretched, and I 
didn't consider at the time that what had happened 
between us made any difference. You had been consider- 
ably less than a father to her and besides, you were 
knocked out. I understand Sir Gilbert treated you like a 
brave man and was quite honest with you. He doesn't 
believe in your recovery nor do I chiefly because I've 
done everything for you that science can do and failed." 
He paused again. His sentences had been clipped and 
hard, the words almost brutal. But his attitude was not 
that of a strong man talking down from the height of his 
strength and well-being to a broken victim. The eyes 
under the straight fair brows revealed pitilessly what lay 
behind the dogged jaw, the composed and resolute exposi- 
tion. There can be no sentimentality between suffering 
and suffering, only equality. 

" But there was one thing I hadn't understood," he said, 
" and that was Anne's love for you. Frankly, I thought 
she would be freer, happier without you. But I was mis- 
taken. It didn't matter that you'd made her wretched. 
She only remembered that you were her father, the Bagh 
Sahib, the fine soldier who had done great things. She 
cared intensely, and all this this sort of life smashed her 
up. If she ran away from it, it was because she felt it as 
an insult to you a deliberate cruelty. She just ate her 
heart out about it. When I realised how matters were there 
was only one thing on earth I wanted to do, and that was 
to come along and give her every mortal thing I could to 



234 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

make her happy you included everything she'd missed 
It seemed to me pitiable to consider your feelings or any 
conventional notions of of propriety, as I suppose you'd 
call it. She needed some one to look after her some one 
who cared. Well, I cared. Now that I have the right, I 
shall live for her as far as one human being can live for 
another. It is my most passionate hope to make her happy. 
I don't know whether I shall succeed that's another 
matter. I shall do my best." 

He got up and stood at his full height. The evening 
regimentals which he wore did not become him. They 
looked indefinably grotesque on his bigness like a child's 
toy uniform on a grown man. The short Eton coat exag- 
gerated the breadth of his shoulders, the black trousers 
the narrowness of his hips, the length of limb. The gold 
and red clashed with his tawny hair and the rugged, 
weather-tanned features. He needed a background of 
forest, of action, of stern living. His body needed the 
freedom of rough clothing. 

" Anne wants you to live with. us," he said. ." That is 
what I have come to tell you. If you both would be hap- 
pier, I should be glad, too. There is a great deal I might 
be able to do to make things more tolerable for you at 
least, I should try. I have given up my quarters at Heerut. 
It is for you to decide." 

The eyes sparkled. It seemed to Tristram that they 
were blazing with satiric laughter. He had a reasonless, 
overwhelming sense of near disaster. " Give me some 
sign, Boucicault. If you consent, close your eyes or 

Slowly, as if weighed down by disuse, the withered arm 
lying on the sheet lifted itself from the elbow. It remained 
upright for an instant, throwing a sinister shadow on the 
wall, seeming to point upwards with menacing significance, 
then sank slowly to its place. The eyes were mad with 
exultation. 

Tristram was back to the bedside at one stride. He laid 
.his fingers on the savagely beating pulse. With rapid, 
skilful movements, he began to test the muscles and nerve 
of the now motionless arm. He was breathing quickly. 
The weariness, the painful deliberation had gone froin 
him. He was himself again the fighter on the vast field 
of suffering, the physician glorying in the greatest of all 
triumphs. 

" By God, Boucicault, you don't know what that may 



MRS. BOUCICAULT CALLS THE TUNE 235 

mean ! It's what we'd hoped for. Look here can you 
do it again ? " 

The arm remained inert, the eyes were momentarily 
veiled and insignificant. " How long have you been able 
to do that ? " He was still busy with his examination 
and scarcely troubled about an answer. He had plunged 
back into a world where there were no passions or conflicts, 
but only huge immutable laws, no personal desires or unreal 
dreams, but only facts, unending chains of cause and effect, 
a thousand paths converging on one great end. It was 
not till he had made every experiment complete that he 
remembered. He looked up. The eyes were turned into 
their corners, resting on his face. Their exaggerated 
expanse of white gave them a look like that of a vicious 
dog. They did not move save when Tristram lifted him- 
self slowly from his half kneeling position, and then they 
followed him with a malicious .fixity. The rest of the face 
was dead a crumbling mask but the life in those eye* 
was inextinguishable, titanic in its will to continuation. 

He had to escape from them. He went over to the wide- 
open balcony and stood there with his back turned, staring 
out into the darkness. For a moment, his brain refused 
to face this reckoning with the future. He listened to the 
music which poured through the scented stillness like the 
drowsy, delicious murmur of running water. A man and 
a woman came down the pathway which led from the front 
of the bungalow. He could hear their voices the man's 
deep-pitched and earnest, the woman's silvery and ironic. 
The light from a Chinese lantern shining softly among 
the branches drew a subdued gleam from the gold on the 
man's collar, from the woman's white, uncovered shoulders. 
Suddenly the man bent down, and they stood together 
through a tense, suffocating moment of silence. Then 
the woman spoke again breathlessly, the ironic lightness 
gone.- 

Tristram drew back. He felt as though he had been 
drawn out into the night's delirious sweetness ; as though 
in defiance of that silent, menacing figure his pulses had 
leapt forward, his blood had clamoured for the fulfilment 
of its elemental demand on all this wealth of living. He 
was young still young in his purity of feeling young in 
the unsatisfied forces of desire. Youth flung itself on 
him with its imperative behests now when he reeled under 
the knowledge of its passing. For it was over. He reasoned 



236 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

clearly enough through this storm of primitive emotion. 
Boucicault would live. He might come back into life lie, 
Tristram, would bring him back to life. It was the task 
which his creed set him not the creed of his profession, 
but the deeper, sterner creed of his blood. 

And what if his blood lied, what if his creed were a mad, 
senseless paradox ? Was not the happiness of the majority 
the only good, its preservation the only morality ? This 
man had set himself against the law. In a ghostly, tragic 
procession, those whom he had hunted out of their rightful 
heritage passed before Tristram's memory young officers, 
those six men in the full glory of manhood standing in the 
barrack yard, their backs to the wall, their faces to their 
brothers, and the death which was to be dealt out to them ; 
Eleanor Boucicault grey-cheeked and wild-eyed pursuing 
the phantom promises of life ; Anne, cowed and broken, 
haunted now by a remorseful, treacherous memory ; a 
death-stricken little mongrel dog, most harmless, most 
pitiable of all, with glazed eyes, seeking to understand the 
black mystery of human cruelty. 

Tristram put his hand to the stiff military collar as 
though it choked him. The foundations on which he had 
built his life were crumbling under his feet. Was he to 
give this criminal mind the power to act, to drag his escaped 
and maimed victims back into the net of his authority, 
to add others to that pitiable procession ? Tristram 
recognised the issues with an appalling clearness. His 
trained intellect grappled with them with the same stern 
impartiality of judgment as he would have used in track- 
ing the source of a disease. With regard to himself, he 
discarded all false sentiment. As men judge, the blow he 
had struck had been unfortunate but just. Was he to 
heap an outrageous punishment upon himself, upon Anne, 
upon an old woman who had known no happiness save her 
joy in him ? Would it not be a strong and logical follow- 
ing out of his sincere belief if he made no effort to fan this 
evil flame to life ? 

As yet he was not conscious of any direct temptation. 
He was only facing the issues weighing one life against 
Another, as it had happened a hundred times in his pro- 
fessional career. 

He turned slowly and came back into the room. The 
eyes followed him, but their malicious knowledge no longer 
reached him. The fight was not now between himself and 



MRS. BOUCICAULT CALLS THE TUNE 237 

this man, but between two fundamental and opposite 
conceptions of life. There was a little table at the foot of 
the bed, crowded with the paraphernalia of sickness. He 
stopped before it, because its interest offered a fresh delay, 
and idly picked up one of the glass-stoppered bottles. 
He opened it and smelt its contents. The faini, sickly 
perfume flashed its significance to his brain. 

Men were given the power to kill 

He looked up. The eyes burning in that white mask 
were on his hands. Their expression had changed had 
become more horrible. It was the very spirit of fear and 
iriumphant evil. 

Tristram put the bottle back in its place. He ecw&e and 
stood by the bed. 

" I don't want you to hope too much, Boucieault," he 
said, coolly and professionally. " In the best of cases, it 
will be a long job. I shall come to-morrow and go over 
you again and see what's to be done. If Sir Gilbert is 
still in the land, we'll have him over. And you must do 
all you can to help us. As to me I quite realise I 
have landed myself in an impasse from which there is 
no possible escape. I don't know what Anne will feel 
or think. But she'll be so thankful to get you back, the 
cost won't matter. At any rate, I shall not speak of all 
this again to you. My business with you is to give you 
back to life. The afterwards is my concern. Good night, 
Boucicault." 

As he had spoken, his eyes on the mask of bitterness and 
hatred, something rushed over him. It was like the melt- 
ing of a frozen stream under the first warm sunshine. 
It seemed to him that he had looked straight down through 
those eyes into the very heart of human misery, and had 
understood. He remembered his own words: "There is 
only one distinction between men the unhappy and the 
happy, the cursed and the blessed." They blazed now 
with a real significance. Men were pitchforked into this 
world with distorted bodies or distorted souls what did it 
matter which ? They deserved neither "hatred nor con- 
demnation they were the awful mystery of humanity, 
the visible symbol of the curse under which humanity 
totters. " Jlere, but for a wild incalculable chance, go I, 
Tristram." 

He bent down and laid his hand on Boucicault's arm. 
He did not stop to think whether or not his touch might be 



238 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

repugnant to the other man. He acted out of an imperative 
instinct. 

" You mustn't worry," he said gently, and almost gaily. 
" You'll live to do for me yet, Boucicault ! Good night 
again." 

The eyes closed as though they had burnt themselves 
out. Tristram moved quietly to the verandah. He had 
a sudden sense of freedom, of physical relief, which was like 
an awakening from a suffocating nightmare. He went 
down the steps into the garden. It was then, as he stood 
there listening to the music and the distant voices, that he 
saw Sigrid Fersen come towards him. His eyes could not 
have recognised her face, for it was dark and she was moving 
quickly, like a pale mysterious light, through the shadow 
of the trees. But he knew her. Was it her step the lithe, 
familiar motion of her body or something deep-hidden 
within himself which irresistibly went out to her ? He 
could not have told. He waited for her. She came on 
unseeingly to the edge of the faint reflection from Bouci- 
cault's room, and then stood still, staring at him. Her 
small, white face had an aghast look. He tried to speak 
to her and could not. His throat hurt him. 

He knew now that he had never known her, never, even 
in his dreams of her, realised her potentialities. He knew 
that she had deliberately thrown down her weapons to meet 
him in the stern simplicity of his life. She had been too 
proud, too self-assured perhaps to fear to show herself to 
him physically at her least. Now he saw her at her highest 
the priceless, polished stone in a rare and exquisite setting. 

A languorous breath of night-wind ruffled the smooth 
gold of her hair and lifted the flimsy scarf from her shoulders. 
It fluttered out behind her like a pale mist. He saw the 
single string of pearls at her neck. He fancied he could see 
the passionate Life beating beneath them. And through all 
her brilliancy, her burning vitality, there was a strain of 
quaint Victorianism, a demure elfishuess like the inter- 
weaving of a minuet with the riot of a bacchanal. 

He could not have spoken to her, and at last a smile 
dawned at the corners of her mouth. He knew that she 
had been afraid, and it flashed upon him that in the bitterest 
moment she would retain her humour, her zest of life. 

" You quite frightened me, Major Tristram, she said. 
" I have never seen you in uniform before." 

" Does it become me ? " he heard himself ask back. 



MRS. BOUCICAULT CALLS THE TUNE 239 

" No. You look as though you were rather stifled by so 
much magnificence. And you've never seen me in full 
gala either, have you ? " 

"No." . 

" It suits me, doesn't it ? That's the difference between 
us. I'm in my natural element. Will you take me back, 
Major Tristram ? I came out for a breath of fresh air and 
to escape Mrs. Boucicault. Mrs. Boucicault asked me to 
dance. I think she fancied it would be a good method of 
rehabilitating me in the eyes of outraged Gaya. But I 
didn't want to. What's the use of marrying if you have 
to go on working for your living ? " 

He walked silently beside her. He did not know this 
woman with the hard voice he felt that she did not want 
him to know her. Her hand rested lightly on his arm. 
He looked at it. It was like alabaster on the red sleeve. 
" We're going to be married shortly," she went on. " Mr. 
Meredith is trying to refuSe his services. He doesn't 
approve. He wants us to leave Gaya. It's so absurdly 
Christian, isn't it ? My husband's business will be in Gaya 

and I like the place " They had turned the curve of 

the path and came within sight of the softly lit garden. 
They could see shadows of the dancers gliding through Mrs. 
Boucicault's rooms to the rhythm of the latest American 
distortion. Little groups had gathered round the tables 
on the verandah and there was much laughter and the 
subdued clinking of glasses. ^The Chinese lanterns shone 
like bright warm eyes amid the trees. 

Sigrid stood still an instant. He heard her draw a deep, 
unsteady breath. " How gay it all is fairy- like ! One 
can scarcely believe that there is such a thing as reality. 
Perhaps there isn't. Mrs. Boucicault is a daring hostess. 
It requires nerve to dance with a dead husband in the 
house." 

It occurred to him then to tell her what he had just 
discovered. He held back. He was afraid of troubling 
the surface of their relationship. They did not know one 
another. The man and woman who had faced each other 
that night in Heerut belonged to a different life. They 
were shadows or had become shadows. 

" By the way, Major Tristram, what has happened to 
the Wickie Memorial ? Is he still among the living ? " 

" He lives and rejoices in the name of Richard," he 
answered lightlj. 



240 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Do you sometimes let him out of the compound ? ** 
she asked. 

He did not answer her at once. Her voice had sounded 
casual enough, and yet he knew that there had been some- 
thing deliberate in her words a deliberate desire to hurt, 
to thrust down through his seeming tranquillity to a raw 
and open wound. 

" How did you know ? " he asked curtly. 

" I don't know I guessed." 

" My wife doesn't like animals about the place," he said 
steadily. " I do what I can for the little chap. You see, 
in Heerut it was different and I don't live at Heerut 
now." 

" Of course not. You have become so civilised." They 
had reached the verandah steps and she turned to him with 
a laugh. " So civilised. The old land-marks have gone 
the beard, the disreputable clothes, the wild-man-o'-the- 
wood's hair and heaven knows what else ! Is there any- 
thing left of the Dakktar Sahib, or is he smothered under 
the respectability of Major Tristram ? " Her eyes ran 
over him mockingly. He raised his right hand he could 
not have told why. It was at once a movement of pain 
and self-defence. Then he saw that her eyes were on his 
wrist. " I'm sorry " she said, gently. " I am in- 
tolerable. There are things one must believe in or perish 
Forgive me. And, for a wedding-present, will you give 
Richard back to me ? I think he would be happier." 

He nodded. He had the feeling that therewith something 
for which he had fought had been finally surrendered. He 
followed her silently up the steps. At the .top they were 
met by Anne. She went up to her husband and put her 
hand on his arm. She did not look at Sigrid, and the 
deliberateness of her disregard betrayed how keenly she 
felt the other's presence. Her obstinate mouth was com- 
"d and unsmiling. 

" I have been wanting you, Tris," she said sharply. 
" Where have you beon ? " 

" With your father," he answered. " I'm sorry. I did 
not know you were looking for me." 

" You might have told me " Her voice sounded 

pettish and breathless. "I should have come with you. 
And you haven't danced with me once." 

He laughed. He felt rather than saw that Sigrid had 
turned away and joined one of the parties of the verandah. 



MRS. BOUCICAULT CALLS THE TUNE 241 

He heard Radcliff e offer her his place and the sulky deference 
in the boy's voice. It gave him a sudden knowledge of the 
fight she was waging. 

" I can't dance not even as well as a polar-bear," he 
said. " You've married a loutish barbarian, Anne." 

" Your barbarism seems to appeal to some people," she 
flashed back. He knew then that she had listened. But 
he could feel no resentment. She looked ill and almost 
old. Her home-made evening-dress did not become her, 
and the Indian sun had begun to drain the colour from her 
cheeks. As though remorse-stricken, she pressed his arm, 
looking up at him pathetically. " Tris, I didn't mean to 
be cross and horrid. I wanted to go home with you " 

" Weren't you enjoying yourself ? " he asked. 

" I couldn't> Tris, don't you see ? " 

He looked past her into the brightly-lit rooms where a 
few couples were still dancing. He saw then what it was 
that had driven her out to seek him. Mrs. Boucicault 
danced the Tango with Barclay. They were both con- 
spicuous. Barclay was the only man in civilian dress, and, 
thanks to Rasaldu's angry absence, his deeper isolation 
was made more manifest. But he danced well perhaps 
too well. Mrs. Boucicault gave a fierce little laugh of 
pleasure as he guided her swiftly across the room. She 
herself was an outrageous figure in her youthful, almost 
childish dress, high at the neck and loaded with jewellery. 
Her fl uffy grey hair looked tossed and disordered, her cheeks 
were painted. But as she suddenly broke off and came 
towards them leaning on Barclay's arm, Tristram saw that 
there was nothing artificial in her shining eyes. 

" Now, what do you think of me, Tristram ? " she ex- 
claimed. " Isn't there life in me yet ? Don't you admire 
me ? " 

He felt Anne shrink closer to him. He bowed gravely. 

" With all my heart," he answered. 

" Oh, it's been splendid ! I've been chasing the years 
and catching them up. Mr. Barclay dances so wonder- 
fully, Anne ; you should try your step with his " 

Barclay made a little movement forward. He only 
glanced at Anne. His eyes fixed themselves on Tristram's 
face. 

" I haven't the pleasure," he said, in his soft mincing 
way. " Perhaps you'd introduce me to your wife, Tris- 
tram " 



242 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" I don't care whom I dance with as long as our stepi 
match," Mrs. Boucicault continued, with reckless ecstasy. 

There was a moment's silence. Barclay had heard. 
His eyes narrowed a little and his nostrils dilated with his 
quick breathing. Tristram turned to Anne. She stared 
straight up at him. Her face was sallow and pinched- 
looking. 

" Will you please take me home, Tris ? " 

She slipped her arm through his and turned to go. 
Barclay held his ground. His lips were trembling. The 
little vein of success that he had had with Mrs. Boucicault 
had intoxicated him, but many things had happened that 
evening. It was as Mrs. Bosanquet had said Gaya was 
fighting to the last ditch. 

" I don't think Mrs. Tristram understands," he said 
huskily. " We're sort of relations, aren't we ? Won't you 
do the brotherly, Tristram ? " 

He had not meant to say it. It was the look on Anne's 
face which had goaded him the hundred petty pin-pricks 
which he had endured patiently, the sudden realisation of 
the impossible gulf between kim and the tall standing 
uniformed figure before him. 

Anne gave a little laugh. It was tremulous and dis- 
gusted. 

" I really think we'd better go, Tris." 

"I'm not drunk," Barclay said. "It's true. You'd 
better ask him. Captain Tristram was my father right 

enough " He swung round. " Why don't you own 

up to it, damn you ? " he burst out. 

The little group nearest him turned to look at him. He 
was only conscious of Tristram and Sigrid. The latter 
had half-risen from her place. He saw her face as a white 
blank. Some one came and touched him on the arm. That 
was what he wanted to come to grips with them, to choke 
them with some of the humiliation that was like dry dust 
in his throat. 

" Look here, Barclay ' 

" It's perfectly trtfe," Tristram said suddenly. " Mr. 
Barclay is my half-brother. I understood that he did not 
wish it known or I should have acknowledged the relation- 
ship before. I do so now." 

There was a silence. He had spoken simply and very 
naturally. It was as though a bomb had been thrown into 
the room and he had picked it up and proved it an empty 



MRS. BOUCICAULT CALLS THE TUNE 243 

shell. Still more, it was as though a child had burst out 
with some weighty, wonderful secret and had been met 
by cool, indifferent laughter. The whole situation seemed 
to have lost point become tiresome and ridiculous. The 
man who had interfered drew back, muttering an apology. 
Mrs. Boucicault laughed. 

" How silly it all is ! " she said, half to herself. " What 
does it matter ? " 

But Barclay turned and crossed the crowded verandah 
and stumbled down the steps. Afterwards he ran like a 
madman. He had not seen Tristram's detaining hand. 
He thought he heard some one laugh, and the sound was 
like the cut of a whip on an open sore. He ran till his 
breath jarred from him in aching sobs. He j*an till the 
last light had vanished among the trees, till there was no 
sound but his own tortured breathing. Then he stood still, 
swaying on his feet, his hands pressed to his wet face. 

He remained thus many minutes. Then he walked on. 
He was hatless and coatless. As he turned into the gates 
of his own compound, a light fell on his face and it showed 
piteously wild and stupid-looking, like that of a hunted 
animal. 

Something moved in the shadow of a tree and came out 
and stood in his path. Barclay jerked to a standstill. 
He passed his hand over his eyes. 

" Who the devil are you ? " he muttered. 

" Ayeshi. I've been here waiting for you." 

Barclay gave a little unsteady laugh. 

" I don't know you. You're not Ayeshi. Ayeshi's gone 

to the devil. You'd better clear out " Then he was 

silent, staring at the face which turned itself deliberately 
to the light. " Good God ! " he muttered. 

" Vahana sent me to you. I've not tasted food for 
a week. I didn't dare go to the villages. They're still 
hunting for me. Are you going to give me up ? " 

' Where have you been ? " 

' Calcutta." 

' What did you do there ? " 

' I learnt things." 

' What things ? " 

' I learnt that I had been a fool. Hatred^ too " 

' You mixed with the students ? " 

' Yes." 

' What else ? " 



244 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" I know who I am." 

Both had spoken in English, and each accent had its own 
quality. Barclay peered into Ayeshi's face. He was 
breathing quickly, with a smothered excitement. 

" You're ill, aren't you ? " 

" I am dying." 

" What do you want to do ? " 

" I don't know yet. Are you going to give me up ? " 

Barclay looked back over his shoulder into the darkness. 
He was shivering. 

" No," he said. " I'll not give you up not to them." 

He made a sign, and they went up towards the bungalow, 
keeping to the shadow of the trees. 



CHAPTER IV 

ANNE MAKES A DISCOVERY 

ANNE had given a little tea-party. A tea-party was 
a favourite function of hers. Mrs. Bosanquet, fond 
of developing her ideas, set it down to a tendency 
inherited from the suburban days when Anne had played 
hymns on a pianola. Anne liked tea-parties because they 
were inexpensive, and sober. She liked to be quiet and 
to talk gently and seriously. Gaya had other ideas of 
amusement, but came nevertheless and sat on the cool 
verandah and talked gently and seriously, till there was no 
character in the station that was not in ribbons. And 
this was not because they were venomous, but because they 
were bored and their Anglo-Saxon bodies yearned for violent 
exercise. 

A week before, Tristram had set out for a brief round of 
the nearest villages, and the tea-party was a method of 
filling in a few hours of his absence. Anne detested his 
absences, and gradually he had reduced the camping-out 
days to the least possible number. She had never pleaded 
with him. Her pressure had been almost imperceptible 
but persistent. 

Gaya had accepted her invitation to the last available 
man. They had had a vague idea that they were thereby 
" backing up " the poor old Hermit, whom they vaguely 
pitied. Only two people in Gaya had been ignored, and 
it was on their account that Mrs. Bosanquet and the two 
Comptons lingered after the rest of the company had 
excused itself homewards. Mrs. Bosanquet sat on one 
side of the prim, muslin-f rocked figure and Mary Compton 
on the other. Archibald Compton took up his place on 
the verandah step and smoked innumerable cigarettes. 
Knowing the probable trend of events, he felt wretchedly 
uncomfortable. 

24B 



246 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Anne chatted about her servants. She did not quite 
approve of Mrs. Bosanquet, who was too irresponsible for 
her size and years. On the other hand, she was the Judge's 
wife, and what she did not know about native cooks was 
not worth knowing. So Anne related her woes, and in 
the very midst of them Mrs. Bosanquet blundered in with 
her attack, for all the world like a squadron of cavalry 
through a picnic. 

"You know, Anne, you're not playing, the game," she 
said. " That's my feeling about it. You're setting a bad 
example. We can't go on like this. It's our duty to hang 
together not to build nasty little coteries and cliques. 
We're not living in London, where there's plenty of room 
for everybody's morals. We've got to put up with each 
other and pretend we like it. I do my share, j*ou must 
do yours " 

Mrs. Compton nodded decided agreement. Her husband 
hunted for his cigarette-case. 

" Them's my sentiments," he declared vulgarly. 

Anne had started a little. Now she looked from one to 
the other and finally at the unhappy Archibald. Her lips 
curled. 

" Of course, I know whom you mean," she said ; " but I 
didn't think you would take that point of view, Captain 
Compton. I thought men were so strict about that sort of 
thing." 

" What sort of thing ? " Mrs. Compton asked, elbowing 
her husband from the field of discussion, where he was not 
likely to distinguish himself. 

Anne's smile persisted. She was not in the least angry, 

though the war-signals had been in the other's eyes from 

the outset. She was prepared to discuss the question 

ii ably and gently. She felt a queer, suppressed little 

exultation throbbing beneath her reasonableness. 

" Colour," she P; 

Both Compton and Mrs. Bosanquet grimaced involun- 
tarily. But Mary Compton was too accustomed to her 
advanced position to feel any particular smart. 

"You mean, because Mr. Barclay has native blood ? " 
she asked. " It's ridiculous. Of course, we none of us 
like it. We don't even like him. But he's going to mam- 
one of us " 

" Not one of us," Anne interposed with a quick, upward 
flash of the grave eyes. 



ANNE MAKES A DISCOVERY 247 

" One of our blood," Mary Compton persisted. " And 
and, speaking for Archie and myself one of our friends. 
We can't have them ostracised by half the station like this. 
The scene the other evening was intolerable, and it would 
never have taken place if you had behaved reasonably. 
You don't involve your heavenly salvation by bowing to 
a man." 

Her fiery temper, which had been severely tested during 
the last week, had taken the bit between its teeth during 
her expostulation, and the knowledge that she was now at 
a disadvantage did not help her to recover it. Anne's 
mouth hardened. The memory of that scene still rankled. 

" One has to draw the line somewhere," she said. 

" I dare say. Still, it would have been wiser not to have 
drawn the line at one's husband's brother." 

" He is not Tristram's brother." Her voicei quivered, 
and Mary Compton had the satisfaction of seeing the tears 
rise to the brown eyes. " They're no relation no legal 
relation. These dreadful things happen but one doesn't 
acknowledge them or talk about them. It was absurd 
and unkind of Tris to have behaved as he did. He has 
such ridiculous notions. Anyhow, just because it's true, 
it's all the more impossible for us to have anything to do 
with him or his wife. Surely you can see that, Mary." 
She paused, and then added . " Every one else does, you 
know." 

It was true. Mary Compton acknowledged it to herself 
with an angry, sinking heart. Sigrid had not been strong 
enough not strong enough, certainly, to balance the 
consternation, the uneasy sense of insulted tradition which 
had punished Barclay's outburst. Mary Compton looked 
gloomily at Tristram's wife, and wondered if it was only a 
sense of outraged propriety which gave her naturally girlish 
face that expression of old and set resolution. 

Archibald Compton created a merciful diversion. 

" It's a rotten business," he said, in his drawling way ; 
" and I can tell you one thing it's not going to be settled 
quite so easily as some of you people think. Barclay isn't 
just an ordinary, feckless Eurasian. He's not going to 
be snubbed for nothing. He's got Tristram blood in him. 
I believe he's got a touch of the devil, too which Tristram 
senior may or may not have had and a lot of dangerous 
explosive stuff in his head which might go off any minute. 
We've seen that. And I'll tell you something more some 



248 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

natives are jolly touchy about that sort of thing. I've no 
doubt Tristram senior got the knife for his little escapade, 
and a grudge dies hard. Besides, this fellow has an awful 
hold over the natives. They've pretty well mortgaged 
their souls to him. He can make himself jolly awkward 
if he chooses." It was the longest, most dogmatic 
utterance Compton had ever been guilty of, ajid he 
got up and groped for his helmet on the chair behind 
him. "I guess we'd better be clearing, old lady," he 
said awkwardly. 

His wife forgot to reprove him. She felt a glow of 
passionate affection mingle with her general indigna- 
tion. 

" I'm sure we deserve whatever happens to us," she said. 
" We're the pettiest, meanest lot of God-forsaken, benighted 
idiots that" ever made the word ' humanity ' ridiculous. Any- 
how, I shall do what I can. You can all come to our 
dinner or you can stay away. I've asked Sigrid and Mr. 
Barclay, and they've accepted. It's in their honour. So 
now you know." 

She looked at Mrs. Bosanquet, and the latter lady got up 
with a fat sigh of resignation. 

" Oh, I suppose I shall come," she said, " and George' 
of course. It seems to be his luck, poor dear, always to 
be on the wrong side." 

Anne said good-bye to them with her composed little 
smile. It was amazing how self-possessed, how deliberate 
she had become in those few months of married life. It 
was as though her character had been kept deliberately 
in flux until her mate had been chosen, and had then 
settled into hard, predestined lines. After the routed 
deputation had waved its farewell, she went back into 
the drawing-room and began to rearrange her wedding 
presents for about the fourth time. They never quite 
satisfied her. Gaya had divided its treasures in the true 
Christian spirit. The family that had two silver candle- 
sticks gare one, and so on, and the result was distressing 
for any one with a sense of symmetry. She sang softly 
to herself as she worked, and when she came across the 
Dresden shepherdess she put it in a drawer and turned the 
key on it with a quiet satisfaction. After that, she found 
an old foul-smelling pipe hidden behind a vase. She smiled 
at it affectionately, disapprovingly, as at a child's broken 
toy, and placed it in the waste-paper basket. Then she 



ANNE MAKES A DISCOVERY 249 

rang the little silver-tongued bell and a soft-footed servant 
slid into the room, and, in obedience to her slight gesture, 
the waste-paper basket and its doomed contents disap- 
peared. 

It wag at that moment that she noticed the shadow of a 
man on the verandah. His back was to the light, and at 
the first glance she did not recogaise him. Nor did he 
make any movement to recall her memory. He stood 
there looking at her. 

" Why Owen ! " she said. '" Owen ! " 

She ran to him with a joyful relaxation of her staid- 
ness, both hands outstretched. He waited for her to 
come up to him. There was something at once proud 
and humble in that deliberate waiting. He held his 
head well up like a soldier, challenging nothing, fearing 
nothing. 

It was the first time that they had met since the day 
when he had seen her off on her way to Trichy. Between 
then and now there had been<the Feast of Siva and her 
marriage. She looked up at him, her hands in his quiet 
grasp. 

One side of his face had no resemblance to the other. 
It had been smashed and mended into a grotesque hideous- 
ness into a leering distortion. The eye was completely 
closed. The whole face looked like a divided mask one 
half human, the other devilish. It was intensely, cruelly 
pitiable. 

Anne neither winced nor changed colour. She looked 
up at him steadily. 

" Dear Owen ! " she said. " Dear Owen ! " 

The one hah* of his poor twisted mouth smiled. 

" I've been hesitating outside for about an hour listen- 
ing to your voices. I didn't like to come in I was afraid 
of startling you. I suppose you knew but one can talk 
about things one can't face." 

He lisped a little, but the lisp could not weaken his 
simple, unconscious dignity. 

" You should have come before," she answered. " I 
have thought so much of you." 

" I couldn't come. It took a long time to tinker me up, 
and then I tried to go back to my work. It's been rather 
difficult. The poor beggars think I've got the evil eye or 
something." 

She made him sit down in Tristram's long wicker chair 



250 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

and sent for fresh tea. There was a gentle solicitude in aU 
her movements that was very touching. When she came 
near him to bring him his cup, he saw there were tears on 
her lashes. 

"Anne it's awfully sweet of you to be so 
sorry." 

She smiled at him with unsteady lips. 

" I don't think J am sorry. It isn't a matter to be 
sorry about one can only be very proud." 

A boyish flush crept into his cheek. 

" There's nothing to be proud of either. I thought 
perhaps you'd be angry, as the others were." 

' ' Don't you know me better than that ? Were the others 
angry ? " 

" All of them, pretty well. They talked about the risk. 
Tristram said I'd endangered their lives." 

She considered a moment. 

"It isn't like Tristram to be afraid," she said. 

"Not for himself. My*word, no. He came into the 
thick of that scrum like a lion. You know how big he is. 
He seemed to grow a lot bigger. He fairly picked me up 
by the scruff of the neck and hauled me out over their 
heads. How he managed, I don't know. It was a mar- 
vellously brave thing to have done." He laughed. " I've 
had a kind of hero-worship for him ever since," he added 
shyly. 

" You don't need to have. What you did was just as 
brave. It was throwing yourself single-handed against 
all the forces of evil. I was proud, Owen. It made me 
feel that some of us are still ready to prove our faith at 
whatever cost. It was as though one of the old martyrs 
had come back to shame our indifference, our wicked 
toleration. It gave me new hope " 

The colour glowed vividly in her cheeks. He glanced at 
her, and then turned away again, revealing the distorted 
profile. There was a moment's crowded silence. She 
could see his hands working nervously on the arm of his 
chair. 

" I was awfully afraid," he said at last, and she knew 
by his voice that he was living his bad hour of fear 
over again. " And yet I had to go on. I had never 
understood how real the voice of God can be. It's easy 
enough to keep up the ordinary jog-trot service until the 
summons comes to you then you must either obey or 



ANNE MAKES A DISCOVERY 251 

give up your mission. One can deceive one's conscience 
not God." 

" And God saved you," she said eagerly. 

She said it with her eyes set on his tortured face. He 
nodded, and laughed whimsically. 

" And with a strange instrument a man who cursed me 
in all the languages for doing the devil's work." 

" Tristram, you mean ? " There was no amusement in 
Anne's eyes, but a shadow. "Poor Tristram, he just 
doesn't understand. He hates sacrifice I don't think he 
knows what it means. He wants people to be healthy, 
and have plenty to eat, and lots of pleasure. He thinks 
that's all that matters. He doesn't understand the sig- 
nificance of the Cross. Perhaps he has been too 
happy." 

Meredith did not answer. He was thinking perplexedly 
of the man who had lain stretched motionless across the- 
portrait of an unknown woman. It was a glimpse of 
memory which never wholly faded. It blurred his con- 
ception of Tristram's happiness. Then he looked at the 
woman opposite him and forgot. He saw her goodness, 
her purity, her steadfastness of soul. He saw that she 
had developed. She had been a girl, she was now a woman, 
strong and self-reliant. A thrill of sheer adoration ran 
through his senses. She looked back at him steadily. 
With a passionate thankfulness, he regained those 
moments of communion when she had knelt before him 
at the altar and they had been one in worship and 
understanding. 

" You are very happy, Anne ? " he said gently. 

" Very happy." 

" I am glad. I wanted to see what a true marriage 

can mean " He hesitated. There was something 

that he had come to tell her. It sickened him, and yet 
it pleased him, as he knew it would please her. " Miss 
Fersen and Mr. Barclay were married this afternoon," 
he said. 

She looked up. The sun had gone down behind the high 
trees in the compound, and the room was full of fast-deepen- 
ing shadows. They were in her eyes, and he could not 
read their expression. 

" You married them, Owen ? " 

He heard the subdued reproach in her voice. 

" I couldn't help myself. What power had I to refuse ? 
9 



262 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

But I confess I hated it. It seemed horrible to me as 
though I had taken part in an ugly farce. It was quite 
private no one knew about it. The banns have been up 
some time," 

Her lips were set in a hard line. 

" Perhaps they were ashamed," she said. " I only hope 
they will leave Gaya. It is terrible to have them here. 
I think she wanted to get hold of Tristram. Wasn't she 
with him that day at Heerut ? " 

She spoke carelessly. 'He wondered if she knew or only 
guessed. 

" Yes she went out to see the festival." 

" She would like that kind of thing she is that sort 
of woman." A spark of passion flashed in her quiet 
voice. " I always distrusted her. Don't you remember, 



_ 

He nodded. He remembered everything that had ever 
passed between them. He knew that he could not forget. 
He did not want to. He hugged his sorrowful happiness 
close to him. He loved her intensely and purely. He 
knew that no other human love could ever come into his 
life, and there was no evil in the knowledge. 

It had grown so dark that their faces were white ghostly 
blanks. A native servant brought in a lighted lamp and 
set it noiselessly at the far end of the room. Meredith 
got up slowly. 

" I must be clearing," he said. " It's done me good 
to be with you. You've always understood so wonder- 
fully, Anne." 

" I wish I could help you," she answered. 

" You have helped me." 

Their hands met in a long clasp. 

Tristram rode up through the shaggy, unkempt avenue. 
It was still light enough outside for his amazingness to be 
apparent to the two standing together on the verandah. 
He wore his helmet at the back of his tawny, unkempt hair. 
Three days' stubble was on his chin. He was collarless, 
and his soiled shirt gaped at the neck. His long legs were 
out of the stirrups, and dangled absurdly along Arabella's 
sides. Arabella had grown, if anything, a little leaner, 
and she exhibited her favourite mannerism of trailing her 
nose when tired of things in general, and camping-out in 
particular. They were a wonderful pair. 

Tristram sang as he rode. His soft, rather hoarse bari- 



ANNE MAKES A DISCOVERY 253 

tone struggled with a translation of the melody that was 
running through his brain. It failed, and he knew it, but 
he continued to sing. He had been three days in the open 
three days skirting the grey, sombre- flowing river, 
ploughing through harsh jungle grass and following rough 
tracts through forests where life lurked and rustled and 
fled with a hundred distinct, familiar footfalls. For three 
nights he had camped under the stars. He had seen the 
moon rise like a silver lamp held aloft by a giant peering 
down on a sleeping, pigmy land. He had sat under the 
council- tree and smoked his pipe and listened to the grum- 
bles of the headman, the latest scandal, and many an old 
legend. He had scolded and bullied and laughed and 
triumphed. He had touched life again, and regained 
his grip and his clear vision. 

He laughed as he swung himself out of his saddle. 

" You didn't expect me, did you ? " he asked gaily. 

Anne ran down to meet him. She kissed at first rap- 
turously and then with a little shudder of irrepressible 
disgust. 

"Oh, Tris, a beard again! And you smell horrid of 
horses and and natives and things you look a perfect 
sight. What have you been doing ? " 

" Not washing, anyhow. You remember that bath I 
had just before I went ? Well, it was my last. Been too 
busy for such foibles of an effete generation. Hullo, 
Meredith. Glad to see you. Not going, are you ? " 

" I must ; I've been here hours." 

" Anne was jolly glad of your company, I expect. I'm 
coming round some day to give you the benefit of my 
medical genius. I believe I know more about things than 
a lot of your high-brow Calcutta folk." 

" I don't fancy even you can do much," Meredith replied. 
" I'm a bad job. But it's good of you all the same. Good 
night." 

" Good night." 

Anne would have watched till the white-clad figure had 
disappeared, but Tristram put his arm about her and 
drew her into the room. He was momentarily serious. 

" Poor old Meredith ! " he muttered. " They have messed 
him up. It must be almost unbearable." 

She drew herself gently away from him. The feel 
of his arm, with its ripple* of steel muscle, had been 
wont to thrill her. To-night he jarred on some raw sus- 



254 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

ceptibility ; his strength repelled rather than fascinated 
her senses. 

"I don't think Owen feels about it like that," she said. 
" It's not awful to him. He recognises it as a cross which 
he is glad to bear." 

He shrugged his big shoulders with good-humoured im- 
patience. 

" Why should one be glad to bear crosses ? It's that 
sort of spirit which makes crosses possible. Our business 
is to get rid of them to blot out the very memory of such 
a thing " 

" A holy symbol ! " she interjected eagerly. 

" I don't see anything holy in it. It's a symbol of man's 
cruelty to man. If I believed in a devil, I should say he 
created it and put the idea into our poor heads that it was 
a thing to be cherished." He chuckled. " Well, I shall 
have a shot at lightening Meredith's cross whether he likes 
it or not, though he doesn't deserve it " 

" Why not ? " she asked. He was moving about the 
room, evidently searching for his lost pipe. She watched 
him coldly. She had been very happy only a little time 
ago very peaceful, very conscious of her own soul. It was 
as though a dishevelled giant had burst into her world, 
pulling it about her ears, trampling on her treasures. She 
loved him, but she was not blind. She saw, almost for the 
first time, that he was vitally of the earth. " Why not ? " 
she repeated. 
." Because through him lives were lost and endangered." 

" Sigrid Fersen, for instance ? " 

The little sneer did not reach him. Having failed in 
his search, he produced a briar of disgraceful antiquity 
from the depths of a trouser pocket. He began to fill it 
with a lover's tenderness. 

" Lots of decent fellows I knew were trampled to death 
on that particular afternoon," he said simply. " Some of 
them had saved my life." 

" You saved Meredith," she put in loyally. She wanted 
to be just to him to admire him, to stifle that feeling of 
intolerant disgust. 

He laughed. 

" Why, yes, I suppose I did. It was an inspiration. I 
just shouted at them that he had the sunstroke and didn't 
know what he was talking about " 

" Tris ! " 



ANNE MAKES A DISCOVERY 255 

" It was the best way. I had to fight like mad as it was. 
I didn't want to have to kill any of my people." He 
stretched himself out on the long chair and held out his 
hand. " You don't mind if I rest a bit before I wash up ? 
I've been ten hours in the saddle. Don't be cross. Of 
course, I didn't mean that about Meredith. He did what 
he thought was right, and so it was right. I'd do anything 
I could for him." 

She gave him her hand and sat down on the edge of the 
chair beside him. She had herself well under control now. 
She spoke gently and almost affectionately. 

" You could help him if you wanted to, Iris." 

" Well, I do want to. Tell me how." 

She bent her head, stroking the brown hand on her knee. 
She did not know that she was stroking it. The action 
was purely instinctive. 

" You could use your influence for him with the 
natives." 

His vivid blue eyes rested rather anxiously on her face. 
He sat up a little and drew her restlessly caressing hand into 
a strong grip. 

" I couldn't do that, Anne." 

" Not even for me ? " 

" I'd do most things for you chuck my work even. 
But as long as it is my work, I've got to do it as I think 
right." 

"Isn't it right to help people to be better "and 
happier ? " 

" Of course. Only it doesn't seem to me that smashing 
their faith is going to help them." 

" We can give them a better faith " 

He shook his head. 

" Not till we've lived it ourselves." 

She got up abruptly and moved away from him. She 
felt as though a chasm had opened at her feet. Or had it 
always been there ? Had she been blinded by her girlish 
worship of his strength and almost feminine gentleness ? 
She did not know. She felt a physical nausea creep over 
her. 

" You promised to make me happy. You don't when 
you talk like that." 

He thought a moment. 

" I do want to make you happy, Anne. It's not an 
exaggeration to say I'd give my life for you. But I was 



f56 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

thinking it over whilst I was alone out there happiness 
isn't a thing you see in a shop window and buy for a price. 
You have to have it in yourself if you're going to give it to 
others. I shouldn't be happy if I pretended to be any one 
else but myself. I should stifle and have no power to make 
you happy. I can't humbug I don't want you to, either. 
We've both got to be free, or it's the end of everything." 
He waited a moment, watching her. " Anne, do you 
know whom I've seen ? " he asked, with a complete change 
of tone. 

" No." 

" Sir Gilbert Foster. I heard that he was tiger-hunting 
this way, and I tracked him down. I wanted to see him 
and tell him about some favourable symptoms I have 
noticed in your father's condition. Also I wanted to make 
a suggestion. Well, he agrees with me. It means an 
operation a pretty dangerous one. I wanted him to 
perform it, but he can't. He's got a Conference somewhere 
or other. He thinks I'm the man to go ahead with it." 

She turned swiftly, suspiciously. She saw the flame 
under the fine brows perhaps glimpsed how deep and 
passionate was his desire for her happiness, how eagerly 
he had planned this moment. She came back to him and 
knelt down, her trembling hands on his shoulders. 

" Tris does that mean he might get well ? " 

" He might. It's a fighting chance." 

"Oh, Tris if it were only true ! ** 

He smiled gravely down at her. 

" You'd pay any price for it to be true, Anne ? " 

" Any price ! " she answered joyfully. 

He put his arm round her. 

" We'll do our level best, dear." 

They remained silent for many minutes. She half 
crouched, half lay with her head against his shoulder. Her 
antipathy had died down. He was again the strong and 
perfect hero of her fancies. She loved him. The arm 
curved about her shoulder was again a thrilling force. She 
looked down tenderly at the slender, powerful wrist. Then 
she laughed. 

" Tris, why do you wear that silly, common bracelet ? 
It's cheap, and so unmanly." 

She felt his body grow suddenly tense. He answered 
without effort, almost lightly. 

" It was a great gift a gift of friendship." 



ANNE MAKES A DISCOVEEY 257 

" From whom ? " 

" A friend." 

She drew herself up. At no time was a sense of humour 
strong in her. She resented his lightness. 

' You might tell me 

I can't." 
Is it a secret ? " 
I suppose so yes." 
' Husband and wife ought not to have secrets from one 
another." 

He laughed. 

" Oughtn't they ? Why not ? " 

" They're one." 

His eyes darkened. He saw that the anger was mounting 
in her and strove to silence it. But an immense weariness 
lamed him. All the life and hope which he had gathered 
to himself out there on those wild fastnesses died out 
of him. 

" They're not, Anne heaven forbid. Because you and 
I are to live together all our lives because we care for 
each other, our personalities don't cease to exist. We 
Have both our secrets our very thoughts are seqret. We 
can't help it. I'll wager you don't tell me everything you 
think about me. Do you ? " 

She got up slowly. She went and stood by the light, her 
head averted. She was very truthful. She recognised the 
truth of what he had said. She could not have told him 
then what she thought. 

" I dare say you're right. It was silly of me." But an 
immense desire possessed her a primitive desire beyond 
her control and based on she knew not what knowledge 
the desire to hurt him. " By the way, Sigrid Fersen was 
married this afternoon," she said. 

He did not answer for a moment. She heard him re-light 
his pipe. The stem was evidently choked, for it drew badly 
and noisily. 

" Well, that was to be expected," he said. " My word 
I am tired just dog-tired." 

She kept her eyes averted. She was stifled by an emotion 
that was hah* shame, half anger. Presently the shame 
predominated. She turned to him, a word of reluctant 
kindness ready on her lips. 

His head had fallen back among the cushions. His 
outstretched hand still held the pipe, which had gone out 



258 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

again. She saw the great muscles of his bare neck of the 
half -exposed chest. His eyes were closed and he breathed 
deeply and smoothly like a child. 

The pipe slipped from his hand and fell on the mat with 
a dull little thud. She crept nearer and picked it up, her 
lips drawn together in ungovernable disgust 



CHAPTER V 

CRISIS 

THE Comptons had rushed into debt with their eyes 
open and their teeth clenched. More than one piece 
of valuable Sevres had vanished from their collec- 
tior* and its place been filled by a judicious rearrangement 
of the remaining gods. Colonel Armstrong never met the 
Captain without dropping a hint as to the inexpediency 
of opposing oneself to the feelings of a touch-and-go 
community like Gay a. The Comptons persisted recklessly 
on their course. Archie Compton, no military genius, was 
a fine soldier, prepared to fight to the last cartridge and go 
down with his superior officer, colours flying. 

His superior officer in this particular affair was one Mary, 
his wife, and the last cartridge was about to be fired at her 
command. 

It could not be said that she faced this last encounter 
with perfect equanimity. Throughout the day she had 
felt her heart beat loudly and heavily. At the approach 
of the fatal hour, woman-like, she had arrayed herself in 
her very best, her courage trickling back to her in the 
measure that she discovered herself still presentable. The 
look of awed admiration which her husband threw her 
from time to time gave her strength to meet the advance- 
guards of the enemy forces. 

Were they enemy forces or was it a capitulation ? At 
any rate Gaya had not turned its back, and that was some- 
thing to be thankful for. Mrs. Bosanquet, with George in 
tow, was the first to arrive probably an intentional 
move on the part of that good-natured and loyal soul. 
She kissed Mary on both cheeks and squeezed her hand. 

" Morituri te salutant," she whispered. "My dear, you 
nave done things wonderfully. I had hardly recognised 
the place. \Yhat are you giving thenTlo drink ? " 

9* 259 



260 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

"Champagne the very best," Mary Compton replied 
grimly. " Twenty rupees a bottle, and unlimited supplies. 
I've borrowed a cook from the Prevets at Lucknow. He's 
supposed to be a wonder. We may pull it off." 

" We may," Mrs. Bosanquet agreed. " Gaya isn't an 
ass. It would be a dull station without Sigrid, and it 
knows it. Unless anything unlucky happens they'll give 
in gracefully especially after dinner. But why on earth 
did these two go and get married like that ? It adds a kind 
of scandal " 

Mrs. Compton sighed. 

" That man wanted it. He was finding the half and 
half situation too trying. They both wished it to be quiet 
Sigrid especially. I think she thought we'd rather be 
out of it " 

" I don't wonder " Mrs. Bosanquet began and 

checked herself. She was in the unfortunate position of 
doing something whole-heartedly of which she equally 
whole-heartedly disapproved. 

A fresh influx of guests sent her adrift. Everybody who 
had a right to be considered in the first flight had been 
invited and had accepted. They came in with more for- 
mality than was usual with them. It was as though 
they recognised that the occasion was in the nature of 
ceremony a kind of symbolic festival. If they swallowed 
Mrs. Compton's dinner it was only to be understood that 
they swallowed the Barclays with it. Mrs. Compton's 
manner, if not her actual invitation, had made that clear. 

Mrs. Compton heaved a sigh of relief when Colonel Arm- 
strong and his washed-out-looking wife made their appear- 
ance. He paid her a little old-fashioned compliment, and 
she understood from his manner that he had reached 
toleration, if not approval. Mrs. Boucicault swept both 
out of her path. She was radiant. Even the painted 
cheeks and reckless display of jewellery could not detract 
from the wonder of her vitality, her irrepressible joy of 
life. It was as though all the winds of heaven had blown 
in with her. 

" I passed the Barclays as I came along," she said. 
" Mr. Barclay has such wonderful horses. He told me he 
has the finest polo ponies in India just eating their heads 
off. Won't it be splendid if we win the cup ? Do look 
at Tristram, Mary ! Doesn't he look odd in uniform ? 
Anne, of course, loves it. She would, wouldn't she ? She 



CRISIS 261 

made that dress of hers. It's not economy. She has a 
sort of idea that it's wicked to be beautiful. And Anne 
is so good." She gave a little malicious laugh. "I don't 
know how she came to be my daughter." 

She rambled on erratically, but Mary Compton heard 
her only as a vague murmur. That moment of which she 
had been so painfully conscious for the last week had 
come. She drew her breath sharply between her teeth. 
She had seen Sigrid Sigrid and her husband. The little 
groups went on talking, but there had been a general, 
involuntary movement. It was not hostile. They turned 
towards her as they had always done, scarcely knowing 
that they did so, drawn by the magnetism stronger than 
either good -breeding or dislike. And to-night it was not easy 
to turn away. There was something new about her some- 
thing more arresting than either beauty or even the vivid 
life which had made her powerful amongst them. They 
could not have defined it. She was not radiant, not tri- 
umphant, not challenging. The gold hair was smoothed 
down on either side of the small, erect head. Her face 
was colourless, the mouth composed, unsmiling. The eyes 
were wide open and intensely bright. There was a touch 
of gold on the white, full-skirted dress on the slippers, 
on the small, perfect feet. She was a study of a burning 
pallor a white flame. Barclay came behind her. He 
looked proportionately dark and very handsome. The 
cut of his evening clothes proclaimed Bond Street. He 
wore a red silk button in the lapel of his coat an order 
given him by King Leopold in recognition of short but 
effective service in the unhappy Congo. He glanced 
about him with a sombre distrust. 

Gaya hesitated. Even a gathering of well-bred English 
men and women can be swept by an invisible wave of panic, 
and Gaya was panic-stricken, torn between a headstrong 
admiration and an instinctive, inherent dislike. More- 
over, it was not easy to take the initiative, and the most 
seasoned among them wavered. 

But before Sigrid and her companion could reach their 
hostess Tristram had left his wife's side and gone to meet 
her. 

" I wish my bracelet sister all happiness," he said in a 
low tone. He helcl her hand for an instant and then turned 
) : to Barclay and greeted him frankly as though nothing had 
ever passed between them. But Barclay's hand hung at 



262 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

his side. He bowed with an exaggeration that was a veiled 
sneer. 

But the ice had been broken, if not dispersed. Others 
came forward, murmuring incoherencies which, they 
thanked heaven, no one could wait to disentangle. They 
tried earnestly, and they believed successfully, to include 
Barclay in their welcome, and they would have been sur- 
prised to learn that the most any of them accomplished 
was a sightless nod in his direction. Perhaps, at the 
bottom, they were of opinion that their resignation to his 
presence was enough. 

But it all looked well enough from a distance, and there 
was colour in Mrs. Compton's cheeks as she kissed Sigrid. 

" We've won," she whispered. " You've won, dear," 
She gave Barclay her hand with a little vacant smile. 
" You've got to take your wife in, Mr. Barclay," she said. 
" You two are the guests of the evening, and must lead the 
way. I'm sure we're all ready." 

Then another little rush of misery and panic swamped 
her. She^ had gone over the points of precedence very 
carefully.^ It had seemed to her best and most courageous 
to take the bull by the horns, to drive the nail home 
with all her strength. The Barclays were not to slip in 
they were to be the people of the evening. Gay a had got 
to accept them whole-heartedly and with its eyes open. 
Now she realised the horribleness of theories when applied 
to human beings. She saw that she had made a blunder 
and had set one person at least an almost intolerable task. 
Sigrid laid her hand on her husband's arm. The entrance 
to the dining-room was immediately opposite her half a 
dozen yards away, Gaya between. It was like running the 
gauntlet. An almost imperceptible spasm passed over the 
dead white face. For an instant Mary Compton thought 
she faltered. Then the two incongruous figures made their 
way slowly across the room. 

But Mrs. Compton had seen that scarcely perceptible 
change. She forgot her guests. She stood there, lost in 
misery and helpless speculation. For what was this in- 
tolerable price paid ? Was this the splendour of living for 
which a woman might sell herself ? What silence could be 
worth such galling humiliation ? If Sigrid had committed 
a crime, surely it was not in this way she would have chosen 
to escape ? 

Then Mrs. Compton, finding herself on the verge of tears, 



CRISIS 263 

became exasperated and seized the arm of the man nearest 
her. 

" Please please take me in," she said imperatively. 

He obeyed, perhaps aware of the nearness of disaster, 
and thereby the order and decorum of the evening went to 
the winds. Gaya, however, itself ill at ease, accepted the 
situation, and followed haphazard, the two forsaken and 
ill-assorted partners joining forces in good-natured resig- 
nation. 

Only Compton himself lingered. He had excused him- 
self to Mrs. Bosanquet, Avho had fallen to his lot, and whose 
understanding of the situation was probably more poignant 
than his own. As a rule, he knew what his wife let him 
know and saw what she pointed out to him, but not much 
else. He had not the vaguest idea why she had, as he 
expressed it, " stampeded," but he did realise, as a pains- 
taking host, that one guest had been forgotten and that 
guest a personage who would be unlikely to accept the 
oversight" gracefully. 

Compton set himself to wait, therefore, with as much 
patience as he could muster. 

It was not till ten minutes later that Rasaldii made his 
appearance. Unpunctuality was with him a fetish. On 
this occasion his ordinary habit had been exaggerated by 
circumstances which he explained elaborately as he 
smoothed his sleek black hair before a glass. 

" Only got back this afternoon marvellous fine shooting 
two tigers and a cheetah. I got the tigers myself mag- 
nificent specimens. The biggest made a devilish fine fight ; 
if it hadn't been for my mahout I mightn't be here now. 
Sorry to have kept you waiting." 

" Xot a bit of it," Compton assured him in his languid, 
incoherent way. 

" Seems a special sort of affair. Anything up ? " 

Compton stroked his little moustache. There were 
times when the Rajah's Anglo-Saxon brevity jarred on 
him. Moreover, for other reasons, he felt disinclined to 
be communicative. 

'' Xo nothing special," he said 

"All right, I'm ready." 

For all his apparent good-humour, Rasaldu was in a 
sulky mood. The tiger-hunt had been the expression of 
an incoherent rage and sense of unforgivable humiliation 
which Gaya had found amusing and not at all serious. 



264 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

But to Rasaldu the whole matter had been serious. He had 
dispensed European hospitality the while retaining an 
entirely oriental mentality. Sigrid Fersen had been in 
part his guest. Her marriage was therefore an insult and 
a gibe. She had made fun of him. In his own language, 
" she had made a fool of him." And he was not given 
either to forgoing or forgiving. 

And now a fresh slight had been put on him. The} 7 had 
gone in without him. They had deprived him of that 
.sense of grandiose arrival which was the most pleasing 
part of any entertainment. It made him, at least for a 
moment, the person of paramount importance. 

His round face was therefore creased with sulkiness as 
he reached his place at the Comptons' table. Not even 
the beauty and promise of the display soothed him. Mary 
Compton had borrowed and been within an ace of stealing 
in order to produce a result which w r ould soften the bitterest 
opposition. But she had counted without the oriental 
character. Rasaldu merely bowed in her direction, then, 
before seating himself, he looked round, making the most 
of his moment. 

Barclay sat immediately opposite him in the centre of 
the table, with Sigrid on his right hand. Outwardly he 
had borne himself coolly enough, accepting his conspicuous 
place of honour with an air of rather insolent ease. But 
below the surface the whole man had been tense, agonised, 
quivering with memories of past humiliations. In every 
glance, in every word, he read the disparagement which 
his instinct knew was still in arms against him. He had 
won. He could look down the length of the table and tell 
himself that these people were here to meet him, to do him 
honour. He could remember the hour when his hostess 
had left him standing in the dust of her cart-wheels. He 
could look at Tristram and recall that twilight scene by 
the temple. Best of all, there was the woman beside him. 
He could turn to her white, quiet face with the memory 
of a night when these two had watched him slink out before 
them like a beaten dog. 

Yes, he had won. He had broken through the invisible 
barrier of their caste. He had fought his way into their 

citadel, and yet ! It was as though he had grasped at 

shadows and they had eluded him. He knew that he had 
never been further from them never more the stranger 
and pariah. The English blood in him arose against him 



CRISIS 265 

in triumph. It showed him what otherwise might have 
remained hidden what Rasaldu could never have seen 
the hearts of these people, their splendid isolation, the 
impregnable aloofness, their blank denial of himself. As 
he sat there listening to their quiet, self-certain intercourse, 
the bandages which he had wrapped about his bleeding 
pride were ripped off and with them every trace of healing. 
The sweat stood out on his dark forehead. He hated 
them. He desired them. He wanted to spit in these 
serene, immaculate faces. He would have grovelled to 
them for one word of fellowship. He had as yet scarcely 
touched the wine before him, but his blood was in an 
uproar, warring against itself. 

Then suddenly he looked up at Rasaldu across the table, 
staring at him. 

Perhaps that silent, deadly exchange lasted no more 
than a second or two, yet the unbridled ferocity of it 
rested like a chilling hand on those nearest and passed 
on down the table so that the last murmur sank into 
an appalled qttiet. Something tigerish had leapt up in 
the breasts of both men. On the one side the oriental, 
wounded in every susceptibility, threw off the mask of 
English breeding ; on the other, the English blood, fevered 
by the maternal heritage, boiled under the insult of those 
eyes, broke from its own frail bondage of self-control, and 
by a mad paradox became native blood-, native hatred. 

The seconds passed. Then Rasaldu, with an insolent 
little movement of the shoulders, bent down to Colonel 
Armstrong on his right and spoke to him in an undertone. 
The unhappy Colonel listened, tugging painfully at his 
moustache. Mrs. Compton had half-risen, but Barclay 
forestalled her. He got up, leaning across towards Rasaldu. 

" What's the matter with you ? " he said. 

Rasaldu's thick lips curled. He looked at Sigrid with 
the bloodshot, hating eyes of a thwarted animal. 

" I don't eat with half-castes," he said. 

Barclay seized his glass and threw the contents full into 
the Rajah's distorted face. 

" You swineherd upstart ! " he gasped thickly. Then, 
with a glance that swept the table, he turned and strode 
out of the room. 

The silence continued. No uproar could have been 
more terrible than its unendingness. The Rajah stood 
there quite still, his mouth open, the wine trickling from 



266 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

his face on to the immaculate shirt-front a ridiculous, 
sinister figure. Mrs. Compton tried to master her voice, 
to say something, but it was as though a gag stifled her. 
She saw Sigrid get up very slowly. 

She stood there looking round her and then across at 
Tristram. He made a movement as though he would have 
risen, but she lifted her hand slightly, imperatively, and 
he sank back, not looking at her. Her lips were a little 
parted with an odd, pathetic little smile. It seemed, as 
she stood here, that she was trying, not to speak, but to 
grope her way to some thought, to some answer. 

Nobody spoke to her or tried to stop her. But at that 
moment she belonged to them, was one of them for the 
last time. Sheer futility lamed all movement, all expres- 
sion of what they felt. It was as though a frail, beautiful 
ship had broken from its moorings in a great tempest and 
they stood there and watched it drift out seawards beyond 
the reach of their voices, of their help or pity. 

Only Mrs. Bosanquet cried openly the tears rolling 
down her fat cheeks. 

Sigrid went out through the silence. She found Barclay 
already in the driving seat of his dog-cart and without a 
word clambered up beside him. He glanced at her and 
brought the whip down savagely across the horse's head. 
The animal did not need the blow. It felt the madness 
in the man's hand and broke into a wild gallop. They 
swung through the compound gates out on to the white 
moonlit road. For an instant they seemed to hover in 
mid-air, and then, with a grinding jar, the off- wheel came 
back on to the ground and they raced on, down through 
the black belt of the paim-trees and out again into the 
silver road, pursued by their own frantic shadows. 

Only once did Barclay speak, and then it was to himself 
between clenched teeth : 

" Now I know," he whispered. " Now I can see 
clear." 

She did not answer. She sat very still, gazing steadily 
ahead into the half-light which ran before them, and en- 
circled them with odd, treacherous shapes, so that now 
there seemed a barrier where there was none, and now a 
clear road where suddenly it curved and dipped. He 
drove well. Once the horse shied violent ly at an over- 
hanging branch, and with a turn of his wrist he brought 
the animal to a baulked, fretting submission. Sigrid gave 



CRISIS 267 



a short laugh, and he glanced sideways at her. 

in that moment a grim admiration one for the other rose 

between them. At least neither had shown fear. 

A syce, drowsing on the steps of the old bungalow, ran 
out to meet them and caught the restive, sweating animal 
by the head. Barclay threw him an order in Hindustani 
and then, without a glance at his companion, led the way 
to the room where the amazing Venus held her lamp. He 
crossed straight over to the wide-open windows and pulled 
the curtains to. 

The door behind Sigrid closed softly. 

Still Barclay did not look at her. He opened a cigar- 
ette box with a theatrical affectation of deliberation, but 
when he struck a match she saw that his hand shook. 
The tiny flame near to his face betrayed new, ugly lines 
cut deep about the mouth and nostrils. 
_ " I'll tell you something queer," he said, glancing up 
over the lighted match. " Tristram Senior was murdered 
in this room just here, where I'm standing. There's a 
stain under the carpet. The 4>lace is supposed to be 
haunted." 

She lifted her eyebrows. Her eyes were very steady 
and watchful 

" Yes ? " she queried. 

" He was murdered by my mother's husband. You see, 
he had betrayed her. It was a sort of insult to my people." 
The match went out almost at his finger-tips. He threw 
it away. " Strange how things happen, isn't it ? " 

She made no answer. Her cloak had slipped from her 
bare shoulders and she put her hand up and drew it back, 
holding it across her breast. He began to move restlessly 
about the room. 

" And now Tristram Junior is in love with my wife." 

" You do not know - " 

" Oh, I know well enough, I've seen it. What was is. 
I imagine a man doesn't forget you for that puling little 
saint. How he must wince ! Or have you told him ? 
Well, you'll have something else to tell him to-morrow." 

" We made a bargain," she said sharply. 

" A bargain ! What have you done of your share ? " 

" All that lay in my power." 

He gave a wretched laugh. 

*This evening, for instance ? Well it's finished, do 
3*ou hear ? I've done with the whole thing. I gave them 



268 TRISTRAM SAHIB 



you a last chance. Now I'm going niy own way 
and you're my wife. I've got that right left." 

" You've no right but what I choose to give you." 

"You'll choose you've got to you're helpless 
He paused, choking. He threw the half -burnt cigarette 
on the floor and ground it under his heel. " There's no 
one in this place that's going to bother about either of us. 
Tristram won't play deus ex machind this time you and I 
we're going to have this out alone." 

He saw her glance towards the door. "It's locked. 
You can scream to your heart's content. Your Smithy 
may hear, but she won't help. The servants have their 
orders. Besides what right has any one to interfere ? 
You're my wife. You swore before the altar - ' He 
stopped again. Like an animal lashing itself to fury, he 
strode towards her and then turned and came back, his 
face swollen and quivering. His words came in a broken 
torrent of passion. "There's there's a sort of compe% 
sation in things my mother's body was found out there 
in the well she was good enough for an hour's sport a 
native what did it mailfer ? a sort of superior toy for an 
Englishman's pleasure and the result a half-caste,, a 
mincing, feckless muddle of two races let him rot in some 
stuffy Eurasian quarter and drink himself to death. If 
he dares rise if he dares come among us if he dares 
aspire to one of our blood then spew upon him roll 
him in the dust kick him out let him feel the whip like 
the misbegotten hound he is. As to our womankind 
hands off, or heaven help him - ' 

" I understand," she threw in breathlessly. " I am to 
be your revenge on them on your brother - ' 

He turned back to her, staring at her. Then he burst 
into a laugh. 

" Revenge ? Oh, I don't know nothing perhaps so 
so high-flown as that. After all they'd hardly know, 
would they ? It's it's a sort of instinct to get level 
in one way or another. Besides I want you - " He 
measured her with a savage deliberation. " My God it's 
natural enough." He was shaking from head to foot. 
Swift and soundless as a flash of light she put the table 
between them and stood confronting him. Her fair small 
head was thrown back, her mouth set in an unfaltering 
line. " By all means it's useless I've the right an^l the 
might Suddenly, like a tiger weary of toying with 



CRISIS 269 

its victim, he flung himself on the table, lifting it with 
both hands. Then, as he did so he stopped short 
faltering. 

A full minute passed whilst they remained face to face, 
neither moving. ' He drew himself slowly upright. 

" Well why don't you do it ? " he asked. 

" I don't want to not unless I must)." 

" It would be an expensive business." 

"I don't know. I've paid so much already it might 
be better to go on paying " 

" To get what you set out to buy ? You don't need to 
worry about that. I may still keep my share of the bar- 
gain. I have other plans. So you had the draw on me all 
the time ? Who would have thought so gentle a bosom 
could hide so much deadliness ? " 

" I have always carried it," she answered simply. " It 
may seem theatrical but I realised this might happen." 

He smiled ironically. 

" You are very cool very brave, Sigrid. You you 
inflame my admiration. Won't you sit down ? It is very 
early yet." 

" I would rather you unlocked the door. I am tired." 

" And sick with disgust ? I can quite understand. You 
are white to the backbone.i,' His voice shook with an 
uncontrollable despair. " Still, I warn you if I open 
the door, I win. It is guarded. You see, I took pre- 
cautions but I don't want that. I I have that much 
English blood in me I'll fight fair." 

" Very well. If there is anything you have to say ' 

"Nothing except perhaps that it is still early. I can 
display patience. Won't you sit down ? " 

" Since you wish it." 

He took his place opposite her, the table still between 
them. It was a wide table and he could not have touched 
her. She rested her elbow on the polished edge, the little 
toy- like weapon held lightly but firmly in her lifted hand. 
He leant forward, his eyes on her, watchful, intent. All 
passion, all desire had died out of them. They were hard 
and cold with purpose. 

" You will tire," he said softly. 

" I am very strong." 

" A I' entrance, then ? 

She smiled faintly. 

"A I'outrance." 



270 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

But he had seen that flicker of amusement and winced 
under it. 

" You think I am as absurd as as I am beastly ? " 
he asked. 

"No I couldn't think like that at least, not at the 
bottom. I understand too well." 

" You understand ? " He stared at her hungrily. 
" What do you understand ? " 

"That you would have been glad to have acted and 
felt differently." 

He nodded. 

" I would have been their friend a good friend. It's 
too late now." 

" Yes too late. I can see that " 

It grew still between them. Once he moved suddenly, 
testing her, but her eyes and hand were unwavering, and 
he dropped back into his old position. 

As the time passed blue shadows darkened her eyes and 
crept about her mouth. She seemed to grow smaller and 
paler, and a kind of wonder came into his patient watchful- 
ness of her an almost pitying admiration. 

" Spare yourself ! " he whispered. 

She made no answer. 

The hours passed. The man and woman became gro- 
tesquely like wax figures in their grey, pallid immobility. 
The lamplight began to fade. In the dusk the empty 
face of the Venus looked ghostly and unreal. They could 
hear a heavy bullock-wagon plough its way up the hill 
to the crack of whips and native imprecations. 

Barclay rose slowly and stiffly to his feet. He went 
across to the window and pulled the curtains aside, letting 
in a flood of golden morning. 

" You've won this time," he said. " You won hours 
ago." 

He did not look at her. He went down the verandah 
steps and did not turn even though he heard the thud of 
the revolver as it slipped from her unconscious hand. 



CHAPTER VI 

" Or YOTJB BLOOD " 

GAYA awoke the next morning depressed and rather 
incredulous. The daylight has a tendency to 
throw a chill interrogation at whatever the previous 
night has held either of greatness, tragedy, or passion. The 
blood cools to a little below the normal and the brain 
perceives things in their flattest, dullest colours. Indeed, 
until lunch-time the human constitution is too busy 
working up steam to produce emotion, or even to acknow- 
ledge the possibility of anything vital save the getting of 
the daily bread and the partaking thereof. So Gaya went 
lazily about its business, deferring serious consideration 
to a convenient future, and meantime vaguely aware of a 
foolish, unpleasant crack in the neat surface of its daily 
life which somehow would have to be patched up. 

Barclay also went about his business. Beyond a certain 
sombre abstraction his manner gave no hint of any change. 
In the early morning a messenger mounted on his favourite 
Arab rode out on the Heerut road, and in the afternoon 
Lalloo, suave and impassive, made his appearance in a 
bullock- wagon which had performed a fifteen- mile journey 
over bad roads in little over three hours. The two, 
Lalloo and his patron, sat together in the very English 
library and talked subduedly until the first breath of night- 
fall rustled among the trees of the garden. Then Lalloo, 
as he had come, took his departure, nicely tingeing respect 
with disparagement and disparagement with respect. 

Barclay himself did not set foot outside the bungalow. 

At dinner he sat opposite his wife and ate whatsoever 
the noiseless servants placed before him. Contrary to his 
custom for he had a morbid respect for all appearances 
he did not attempt to keep up the small talk which usually 

271 



272 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

passed between them. He scarcely spoke to her, and only 
once looked in her direction. 

Afterwards they stood for a moment together on the 
edge of the verandah, looking out into the quiet darkness. 
Here, too, custom was broken. It was the first time since 
their marriage that she had joined him after their cere- 
monious meal. A memory shot like a light through his 
moody silence. 

" Aren't you afraid ? " he asked brutally. 

"No," she answered. There was no bravado only a 
great physical weariness in her low voice. ' ' I want to know 
what is going to happen," she said. 

" Nothing." 

" I thought as I have failed so completely 

" that you could clear out ? " He smoked for a 
moment in sombre consideration, then tossed his cigarette 
away from him. It glowed on the pathway like a tiny. 
watchful eye. " Of course you're free," he said finally. 
" I haven't any power to hold you. But if you go, 
then I shall be free too. The last article of our agree- 
ment will have been annulled. That's obvious, isn't 
it ? " 

" Yes if you hold to your agreement." 

" I shall." He gave a subdued laugh. " I am like 
Shylock, Sigrid. And you are one of those good Christians 
trying to cheat and possibly persecute their infidel creditor. 
What do you expect ? " 

" Just that." She waited an instant and then he 
felt rather than heard that she turned away from him. 
" That's all I wanted to ask you." 

Well ? Have you decided' ? " 

" There was nothing to decide. I shall go on with it 
whatever it is." 

He heard the curtains fall. Throughout he had not 
looked at her. It was as though he withheld from her 
something which his eyes might have betrayed. When 
all was still again he took a book haphazard from the 
pompously crowded shelves and sat down beneath the 
light-bearing Venus to read. He sat very still, his dark 
eyes resting intently on a spot just above the page which 
was never turned. 

The gold-faced clock on the table chimed ten o'clock. The 
thin, dulcet tones dropped into the quiet like pebbles into 
a still pool. They seemed to arouse the man beneath the 



"OF YOUR BLOOD" 273 

lamplight. He got up and pulled the curtains across the 
windows. There was a door in the left-hand wall. It led 
into a room in which he kept his papers, and no one entered 
it but himself. He took a key from his pocket and un- 
locked it. 

" You are safe now," he said in the native tongue. 

Ayeshi came out slowly into the light. His eyes were 
dazed-looking, but rest and food had restored something 
of their old fire, and that very return of Life accentuated 
the deeper change in him. It was not only the lines 
which disease and want had chiselled among his features. 
The one-time boyish beauty had been hardened and sharp- 
ened by something more subtle than physical privation. 
His eyes, as they grew accustomed to the Light, were i\p 
longer clouded with mystic dreams, but were stern and 
penetrating. His very bearing was profoundly different. 
His dignity had been gracious and unconscious ; it was now 
conscious and commanding. 

" You have done me great service," he said in an under- 
tone. " I shall not forget when the time comes for remem- 
brance." 

" You are rested sufficiently to go on your way ? " 

Ayeshi nodded. He glanced keenly into Barclay's 
impassive face. 

" You use our tongue to me ? " 

Barclay shrugged his shoulders. 

"Is it not mine also ? " 

A faint hauteur compressed the fine lips. He turned 
away and lifted the edge of the curtain. 

" I give you great thanks, Barclay Sahib." 

" I ask no thanks of you, Ayeshi. You will find a horse 
at the gates. But first, can there be no trust between us ? 
Can you not tell me whither you are going and to what 
end ? " 

Ayeshi turned, measuring the other man with a grave, 
scornful deliberation. 

" I have learnt to keep my counsel where there is English 
blood," he said. He did not see the expression which 
passed like a withering flame over his companion's features. 
He lifted his hand in salutation, and the curtains fell noise- 
lessly behind him. 

Barclay waited, motionless. His breathing was quick 
and shallow, his whole body tense with pent-up excite- 
ment. As the muffled sound of hoofs reached him he 



274 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

turned the light out and the next instant was running 
towards the compound gates. 

A syce leading a horse by the bridle came out of the 
shadow. Without a word Barclay caught the helmet and 
long cloak which was held out to him and swung himself 
lightly into the saddle. 

" Which way ? " 

" Towards Heerut, Sahib." 

" See that you remember my orders." 

" The Sahib shall be obeyed." 

Barclay's steel wrist brought his nervous, fidgetting 
animal to an instant's complete quiet. He listened 
intently. He could still hear the sound of hoofs beating 
in the distance. He drove his heels into the Arab's flanks 
and rode out into the stream of pale starlight which flowed 
down towards the valley. 

He rode at a quick canter, dangerous enough on the 
steep gradation and only justified by his knowledge of 
every curve in the narrowing roadway. His riding had 
nothing of the recklessness with which he had driven the 
night before. He held himself and his horse in the steel 
grip of a definite purpose. 

At the bottom of the hill on which Gaya perched itself 
like a beautiful white bird he drew rein and again listened. 
There was no moon ; the intense clarity of an Indian 
night covered the parched and gasping plain with a seeming 
luminousness in which nothing was visible but unrealities. 
Overhead the black burnished shield of the sky blazed 
with its mysterious, unreadable devices. But for the 
monotonous rhythmic thud dying in the distance the 
silence was absolute, painful, like the suspended breathing 
of a fevered body. The river was voiceless. 

Barclay rode on The road had narrowed to little more 
than a track which the drought and the passing of heavy 
wagons to and fro to the new bridge had made a trap of 
crumbling ruts and dust-covered holes. It was five miles 
to the river, and nearly two hours had passed before the 
rider caught the first murmur of water. It sounded faint 
and exhausted. In the vague light the new bridge looked 
like some monstrous dragon, its body spanning the half- 
empty river-bed, its thick-set limbs planted stolidly in the 
sluggish water. It needed no more than a ceremony for 
it to be complete. Yet Barclay turned up to the old 
bridge. In view of its approaching demolition it had been 



"OF YOUR BLOOD" 275 

neglected and part of the wooden rail had been broken 
down, making the crossing at nightfall a matter of some 
danger. 

Barclay chose it and rode across with slack rein. On 
the other side he dismounted and tethered his horse and 
went on on foot through the trackless jungle grass. 

When he stood still he could catch no sound, neither 
the thud of hoofs nor the faintest movement. The high 
grass, as it yielded to his body, rustled and cracked 
deafeningly in his ears. His own breathing sounded like 
the loud panting of a hunted animal. 

The temple lay sullen and dark and silent in the black 
shadow of the jungle. 

Barclay reached the gateway. The obscurity was here 
so dense that his instinct alone guided him. He went 
forward deliberately, noisily, sensing the hands 'that waited 
for him, the eyes that watched him. Then he struck a 
light. 

The next instant that for which he waited eame, and, 
though he had waited for it, its swiftness and deadliness 
drove a scream from his lips a scream that was smothered 
to a choking groan almost at its birth. He stumbled and 
fell, his hands twisted behind him, his unprotected face 
grazing the stones. He felt hot breath on his neck, the 
cut of a cord round his wrists. Gagged and helpless, he 
was jerked back to his knees and a dark lantern flashed its 
eye on to his bleeding face. 

Beyond the dazzling circle he could see forms no 
more than shadows painted dimly against the dense black- 
ness of the temple walls. Nearest to the light, Vahana's 
wild, expressionless eyes glittered with the cold lustre of 
a serpent's ; but, as he grew accustomed to the light, Barclay 
recognised other faces, two headmen from neighbouring 
villages, a handful of priests wearing the Triple Cord on 
their shoulders, five non-commissioned officers from the 
native regiment. They crowded round him in a silent 
circle which contracted like a steel trap. But Barclay 
seemed neither to fear nor heed them. He threw back 
his head and looked up into Ayeshi's face. Then he drew 
himself together as a man does who knows that life and 
death hover in the balance. 

" So you were a spy after all, Mr. Barclay ? " Ayeshi 
said in English. 

" No, Rajah, your servant/' was the swift answer. 



t 
276 TRISTRAM SAHJB 

The fine nostrils distended with a deep-drawn breath. 

" Do you know who I- am, then ? " 

" I know that you are Ayeshi, the son of Ram Alia, who 
was deposed and driven into exile by the English. I know 
that you were saved by a few faithful who feared to 
breathe the secret even to you. I know that you have 
borne willingly a stigma which is another's. I know that 
you have starved and suffered and learned in the gutters 
of Calcutta that an unworthy English Sahib should go 
unpunished.", 

Ayeshi lifted his hand imperatively. 
' How have you learnt these things ? " 
' I have ears in every village, Rajah." 
' Why did you follow me ? " 
1 1 have a wish to serve you." 

' You are English " 

' English ! " Barclay laughed. " Yes, I have English 
blood in my veins. I am the son of the old Tristram Sahib 
who seduced my mother and brought about her death, 
who hunted down my brothers and our father's servants 
and shot them from the cannon's mouth, who gave honour- 
able life to Tristram Sahib, the wealthy and happy and 
honoured, who gave life to me, an outcaste " 

" Yet a night ago you sat and ate with these, thy 
people " 

" That also is true. I fought for their friendship, Rajah, 
I grovelled for it. I schemed for it. I would have sold 
you and all these, my brothers, if they would have made 
me one of them. But they would not. They have chosen, 
not I. Last night, Rasaldu, the swineherd's son, would not 
sit at table with me. That was the end." 

" You have an English wife." 

Barclay laughed again. 

" Who sold herself to me for a high price, who would 
rather die ten deaths than be a wife to me, who loves 

Tristram Sahib " He broke off and jerked his head 

towards the intently watching Sadhu. " Vahana here 
knows something of what I say. Let him testify for me." 

The shadowy, unreal circle of faces turned for an instant. 
Vahana bowed his head in assent. 

" I have told you the truth," Barclay went on. " The 
best and the worst. I have risked life to tell it you. I 
knew what might await me here a knife in the dark 
perhaps without a word spoken and yet I had to come. 



M OF YOUR BLOOD" 277 

Life can be more bitter than death. A man cannot live 
alone as I have done there comes a time when his soul 
cries for his people." 

They looked at him silently, without pity. The agony 
in his hoarse voice did not touch them. For them also he 
was the Pariah the outcaste. He read their answer in 
their eyes and turned back to Ayeshi with a burst of passion. 

" Take me claim me make me one of you ! I have 
power I have money I can do for you what no other 
man could do. Either you must kill me or make me one 
of your blood. I know too much. There is no other 
way out for either of us." 

Ayeshi did not move or speak. One of the two priests 
crept closer, avoiding Barclay's shadow. 

" What can you do for us ? " he whispered. 

" You know very well, Heera Singh ! The drought 
is on us. The crops will fail. Is there a man in your 
village who does not owe all that he has to me ? What 
if I make our Lord Ayeshi their deliverer if he should 
free them from me ? And I have money. Is all that 
nothing ? " 

The priest was silent, fingering his sacred cord with 
eager fingers. But Ayeshi knelt down and looked full 
into the Eurasian's face. 

" You said that you would have betrayed us for their 
friendship," he said. " What if they came now and offered 
you their hands " 

" It is not in their power," was the swift and bitter 
answer. ' ' They have tried the river is too wide for them ." 

There was silence again. The yellow light revealed 
figures lurking behind them, black, vaguely defined forms 
which glided softly up and down the temple walls. Vahana 
had bent down and with his claw-like finger drew a pattern 
in the dust. It was the sign of Swashtika. Barclay drew 
his breath between his teeth. He laid his hand on the 
rough-drawn symbol and Vahana's hand closed down on 
his. The priest wetted his forefinger with his tongue and 
touched Barclay's forehead, tracing two horizontal lines. 
But Barclay did not feel him. He was only conscious of 
that hand, cold, hard, scaly. It seemed to envelop him, 
to glide up his arm and to reach down and close about his 
heart. 

" One of our blood," the priest muttered, " for evil and 
for good we claim you one of us." 



278 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

But Ayeshi made a gesture of proud impatience. 

" There can be no evil," he said. " The worst that 
can come to any of us is death. And what is death but 
release ? We who have seen our faith insulted, our gods 
defiled, our dreams shattered what is death to us ? Each 
one of us has his own bitter wrong. Let him avenge it 
under my banner." He turned authoritatively to one of 
the native officers. " We have had enough of words. 
From henceforward there shall be nothing said which does 
not translate itself into action. You, Parga, what have 
you to tell me ? " 

The man answered with a military salute. 

" All is ready, lord. We are patient. We do but 
await your signal." 

" We have planned for the 25th of this month, lord," 
his companion added. 

Ayeshi nodded. 

" By that time we shall have our forces on this side of 
the river ready. Give me the map." 

The map was spread out on the ground. Ayeshi traced 
a line down the length of the river, whispering his orders. 
Here and there one of the soldiers assented or offered a 
suggestion. The priests were silent but watchful. Their 
faces glistened like burnished bronze in the yellow light. 

But Barclay felt and realised only that hand which had 
rested on his. It was as though he had plunged his arm 
into icy water and the chill had begun to creep through 
his whole bodj 7 . His blood had become cold and sluggish 
in kis veins. 

He listened and beyond the subdued voices he heard 
strange sounds an intermittent rustling amidst the long 
grass, a hushed, sibilant whispering, the crack of a branch 
under the weight of a writhing, twisting body. 

He lifted his head and it seemed to him that the jungle 
towered over him, roofing the broken walls of the temple 
with its sinister shadow. 

Vahana watched him unceasingly. 

Dawn was still afar off as Barclay rode his horse over 
the narrow bridge. Once on the farther bank he turned 
and looked back furtively. Nothing Mas visible. The 
forest-clad mountains were no more than a monstrous blot 
oil the burnished shield, wiping out a part of its n^sterious 
quarterings. Yet their massed blackness fascinated him. 



"OF YOUR BLOOD" 279 

They filled him with an inexplicable horror which until 
now he had held partially in abeyance ; but in this lone- 
liness it became an obsessing force of panic. Something 
had happened to him. He sat there in the saddle, but his 
mind, a second vitally real consciousness, crawled through 
the trackless undergrowth. His ears heard strange whis- 
perings ; things unnamable slid over his limbs and wound 
themselves about his throat and body, driving the breath 
from him. He could not taunt himself with feverish 
imaginings. The man in the saddle might have been a 
shadow, a figment of the brain, but that second being 
struggling and gasping for life in those jungle fastnesses 
was a reality himself. 

It was not imagination, but revelation. A sixth sense 
had been stabbed to consciousness. Scales had fallen from 
his eyes. 

He forced himself to ride on and in an instant the return 
became a heedless, panic-stricken flight before an in- 
visible, formless enemy. Even in his own compound there 
was no safety, no escape from whatever hunted him. 
Rather in the black silence of the bungalow he recognised 
a new menace. He tried to master himself, to call the 
sleeping syce, but his tongue was dry and thick in his 
mouth and refused its office. With shaking hands he 
tethered his horse and crawled stealthily across the veran- 
dah to the open windows of his room. 

He stood still on the threshold, -listening. His own 
breathing seemed to come from the other end of the room 
from some one who crouched amidst the ponderous 
furniture, watching him. He tried to strike a light, but 
the match flickered and went out and he dared not try 
again. He felt that no light could live in that stifling, 
foetid atmosphere. And the shadows which he had 
awakened appalled him. He stumbled blindly to the 
chair beneath the lamp and crouched down into it, hushing 
his labouring lungs, forcing himself to confront the dark- 
ness, the sweat thick and icy on his forehead. 

He had dared death that night and had not known fear ; 
but this was different. It was something in himself an 
awful disruption, the breaking down of some secret barrier 
behind which had been imprisoned untold knowledge, a 
horde of ghostly, inherited memories. He tried to stem 
them back vainly. 

He that second self saw this stain beneath the carpet. 



280 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

He saw old Tristram Sahib seated where he sat Vahana 
crawling out of the darkness the uplifted weapon. He 
heard a woman's muffled scream the bumping of a body 
falling between narrow walls the sullen splash of water. 

These things were to him actual corporeal. 

He turned with a shuddering gasp, burying his face in 
his arms, hiding from them, awaiting in palsied helpless- 
ness for the deliverance of the morning. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE PRICE PAID 

MRS. BOUCICAULT and her daughter sat on either 
side of .tab wide-open Endows and avoided each 
other's eyes. It 'was the first time that they had 
been alone together for many months, and they found 
nothing to say. Had they been total strangers they 
could have discussed the situation with sympathy, but 
they were bound together and to the man on whose return 
from death to life they waited by too many ugly memories 
for any superficial intercourse. They were like galley- 
slaves, hating each other and the bonds that manacled 
them to an intolerable intimac}'. 

There was a faint, sickening taste of ether in the hot 
air. It seemed to permeate everything, and to Anne, who 
knew nothing of the surgical side of illness, it conveyed a 
suggestion of mj^sterious suffering and horror. It affected 
her with the same physical and purely instinctive fear which 
assails most human beings in their first contact with death. 
It was not so much the thing that was happening as the 
grim, immaculate ceremonial surrounding it which terri- 
fied her. She would have been glad to have been alone, 
and in her heart she denied her mother the right to be 
present. But convention and decorum were on Mrs. 
Boucicault's side and against such opponents Anne felt 
herself powerless to make a stand. Once she glanced 
quickly across at her companion and saw how cruelly the 
daylight treated the small face now that it was without 
its persistent animation. Neither paint nor powder 
could conceal the livid pallor beneath nor the painful slack- 
ening of all the facial muscles. Only the mouth retained 
its straight, unbreakable resolution. 

" One can't live as she does without paying for it," 
Anne thought, and did not acknowledge the little glow of 

281 



282 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

righteous satisfaction which passed over her. Instead she 
went back mentally to the man lying unconscious at the 
other side of the bungalow and to her own life. 

For all her painful anxiety she felt strangely content. 
She had the elevated serenity of one who has ]> 
through tribulation to a well-earned happiness. For she 
had been very unhappy in her life. There were the days 
of " misunderstanding " with her father, the days in 
" Trichy " when she had faced the alternatives of a penni- 
less and ill-prepared attack on the unknown world or an 
ignominious return to a life her whole soul condemned ; 
there were days, even since her marriage, when she realised 
that the man she had worshipped was not wholly worthy 
of worship, that in many ways he had fallen below the 
standard which she set him. 

But of late ^these things had sunk into the background. 
God had been very good. She had longed so much for a 
child, and that was to be given to her. That fact alone 
poured like sunshine over all the past. It seemed to her 
that with the beginning of that hope everything had com- 
bined together to make her happy. Her father was to 
be made well and strong again. Sigrid Fersen, save where 
a very few were concerned, had dropped out of Gaya's 
life into a grey seclusion, and with her the man whom she 
had sought to drag up the heights of her meretricious 
popularity. And, best of all, that very morning, when so 
much hung in the balance she had regained her love, her 
humble, possessive adoration of her husband. He had 
seemed so big, so strong and invincible. The fire in his 
steady, absorbed eyes had thrilled her, the touch of his 
hand had given her a passionate, child-like confidence. 

" I know that you won't fail," she had whispered. " God 
bless you, Tris." 

" I'm sure He will," he had answered, smiling. And 
though perhaps there was something in that familiar 
phrase which jarred on her, still it could not weaken her 
joy in him or her faith in her own blessing. 

Yes, God had been very good 

" I think it is over," Mrs. Boucicault said suddenly. " I 
can hear some one coming 

Both women rose instinctively to their feet and turned 
towards the door. Anne's heart throbbed painfully. As 
Dr. Martin entered she felt a sudden weakness overcome 
her so that she could hardly stand. The doctor had 



THE PRICE PAID 283 

discarded his white overalls, but he brought in with him a 
deeper tinge of that nauseating odour. Through a mist 
she heard him talking, and even in that moment she was 
conscious of a bitter resentment. He was speaking to her 
mother. 

" Yes wonderfully successful, Mrs. Boucicault. To 
tell you the truth I had no idea the I.M.S. concealed suck 
a talent for the knife. Remarkable hand almost inspired, 
one might say. Major Tristram can set up in Harley 
Street any day. Of course we're not out of the wood yet. 
We can't hope to see much change in your husband for 
some weeks. Shock and all that, you know. There was 
a lot more trouble than we suspected. Old trouble whick 
must have caused a good deal of eh mental unrest." 
He rubbed his chin as though on the point of some further 
information. " Well, I dare say Tristram will go into 
details. He wants me to stop in Gaya till we know better 
where we are, and I shall try and arrange to. Very 
interesting case very. Hullo, here's Major Tristram 
himself." 

With a little cry of joy Anne turned to run to her hus- 
band, but as she saw the man who entered her purpose 
faltered. She was not given to analysis, and the change 
in him, because it was not entirely physical, eluded her. 
And it frightened her. It was as though all her instinctive 
fears had taken shape in him. He looked exhausted to 
the point of breakdown, but that she had seen before, 
and it was not that which had brought her to a standstill. 
It was something behind the white stillness of his face 
the passionless detachment, the Nirvana which, had she 
but known it, comes to men who have passed through a 
vast spiritual crisis. 

" Tris ! " she whispered. 

She came to him at last and he put his arm round her. 

" It's all right," he said simply. His eyes were on 
Mrs. Boucicault. " Your husband will live," he said. 
"' He may get well." 

She nodded, twisting the rings round her thin fingers. 

" How long will it take before he is strong again ? " 

" A few months perhaps." 

" Then I I have that much time left me." 

" Mother ! " Anne cried out. She felt Tristram's arm 
slip from her shoulder. He went to Mrs. Boucicault and 
took her hand in his. 
10 



284 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" He may change very much," he said. 

She laughed. 

"Perhaps but it will be too late." She made a little 
grimace. " Well, I have learned the value of time at 
any rate. Dr. Martin, come and see me into my carriage. 
My daughter wants to have a good cry." 

Dr. Martin offered his arm with a grave courtesy sur- 
prising in a man of his somewhat casual temperament, 
and the two went down the verandah steps talking in an 
undertone. Anne watched them in bitter silence. The 
attitude of these two men towards the wizened, painted 
woman had thrown a shadow of disgust over her happi- 
ness. They had treated her as though she occupied the 
centre of their stage, accepting her flippant cruelty without 
reproof, offering her an austere reverence. A scornful 
comment trembled on Anne's lips, but, turning, she saw 
that Tristram had dropped down in one of the chairs, his 
face hidden in his hands, and her heart melted towards 
him. She knelt down and put her arms about his neck. 

"Trial" she whispered. He looked up. " Tris ! " 
she repeated on a note of faint reproach. For she had 
seen that his face was wet, and tears in a man had always 
seemed to her rather repulsive. " What's the matter, 
dear ? " she asked. 

He smiled faintly. 

" I am an ass, aren't I ? I don't often do this sort of 
thing some things touch me horribly. Besides, I'm a bit 
rattled still. Those two hours were devilish you don't 
know " 

She kissed him solemnly. 

" I know how splendid you are Dr. Martin told us." 

" Did he ? Well, honestly, I don't believe any other 
man could have done what I did to-day. No one else 
could have wanted to win so badly as I did." 

" For my sake, husband ? " 

" For yours and mine." 

" That's sweet of you," she said gently. Her moment's 
irritation had passed. She rested on his bigness, his 
redeeming strength and tenderness. " I am very happy, 
Tristram." 

" Are you ? " He looked into her face eagerly. " Really 
happy ? " 

" Happier than ever in my life. So much that is wonder- 
ful has happened. It seems to have made everything worth 



THE PRICE PAID 286 

while. All the suffering." She leant against him, her 
eyes half closed in* dreamy recollection. " Sometimes I 
think it's all been for the best. It's taught us charity, 
hasn't it to be gentle in our judgment ? I know I have 
often been hard too. To-day I could forgive even the 
man who caused it all." 

His arm tightened about her. 

" He'd be glad to hear that, Anne " 

" I could forgive." She drew herself up a little. " But 
I wouldn't help him to escape his punishment, Tristram." 

" You couldn't, dear. No one escapes." 

" Yes, that's true, isn't it ? Sooner or later they are 
found out. They say criminals always return to the 
scenes of their crime. Mother told me Ayeshi had been 
seen slinking about Heerut at night " 

" Ayeshi ? " he interrupted perplexedly. 

She gave a quick glance into his face. 

" Yes of course, I'd forgotten, no one's ever told you. 
You see, you were so fond of Ayeshi, and you were ill, and 
so we arranged that we wouldn't tell you unless unless 
he was caught. Afterwards no one liked to, and you're 
such an old hermit you never hear anything. But now 
it doesn't matter, does it ? It was Ayeshi who tried to 
kill my father." 

He pushed her away from him as though she had sud- 
denly ceased to exist for him. 

" I don't understand " 

She laughed uncertainly hah* angrily. 

" Why, Tris, I've just explained " 

"I understood that no one was suspected " 

" I've explained that, too, dear. I thought you would 
guess when you heard that he had disappeared like 
that " 

He turned on her almost violently, but even she realised 
in that moment that he was scarcely conscious of her. 
His blazing eyes had a sightless look in them that frigh- 
tened her to her feet. 

" I might have known," he stammered, " but I am too 

big a fool an idiotic sentimentalist " He steadied 

and looked at her straightly with seeing eyes. "Ayeshi 
must have disappeared to shield me," he said. " It was 
I who nearly killed your father." 

Her face was at first only stupid-looking as though his 
words had had no meaning then every trace of colour 



286 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

ebbed from her lips. She wavered, and he sprang to her 
side, and carried her to the chair \vhioh he had just left. 
An intense, torturing pity swept him. She was so small, 
so very fragile. He felt himself as something monstrous 
riding over all her happiness. She clung to him. 

" Tris Tris please don't say things to frighten me 

" I've got to. Sooner or later I had to tell you. I 
didn't mean to be so sudden. But it's true." 

She freed herself. There was no strength in her arms, 
but he had felt her whole body cower and shrink from 
him and he stood back from her as though she had struck 
him. 

" I can't I can't believe -" she whispered. 

" You must, Anne." He paused, and then went on 
quietly. " It was after that time at Bjura. I was riding 
home as best I .could with a temperature God knows where 
I don't tell you that as an excuse, but as a sort of ex- 
planation and I found your father torturing Wickie. I 
know now that probably he was as mad and irresponsible 
as I was, but at the moment I thought he was simply a 
devil. I intervened I believe I appealed to him I tried 
to stop him. He struck me repeatedly, but as long as he 
didn't touch Wickie I didn't care. Then he ran Wickie 
through with the sharp end of a bamboo stick and I struck 
him. I am very strong and I had no self-control. It 
was as though all the brakes had given way and I struck 
too hard. That was how it happened, Anne." 

He waited. He could not have said for what, but he 
knew that it was something great in her. He had seen 
this moment many tunes before and seen it both as an 
end and as a beginning of a new life between them. It 
was in her hands. But at the last a kind of proud con- 
fidence had swept over him. It did not occur to him to 
appeal to her. Understanding is above forgiveness. 
Either she understood, and there would be no need to for- 
give, or he was simply a murderer, and then her forgiveness 
would be valueless. 

But he had believed that now she would understand. 

She crouched in her chair, looking at him with horror 
in her eyes. 

" I can't it's too terrible to have done that and 
then to have shirked the responsibility " 

Still he waited. He had to explain that was only 
fair to her and to himself. But he began to lose hope. 



THE PRICE PAID 287 

He saw himself with her eyes and the eyes of her 
world. 

" You know that I was delirious for a long time after- 
wards. When I recovered the whole thing seemed finished. 
No one was suspected as far as I knew. Well, your father 
meant to smash me. I saw that much in his face. And, 
frankly, Anne, I did not choose to be ruined for his sake. 
My life my work was of value to others to whom I 
owed more than I did to him. If I made no effort to 
escape the consequences of what I had done I also did 

not immolate myself to a false idea of justice " He 

broke off. It was not what he had meant to say to her. 
It was cold and ugly. But her eyes told him that every- 
thing he could tell her, of the deliberately accepted burden 
of silence, of the motive of a great filial love which had 
chosen to crush the inborn, conventional instincts of 
honour rather than tread the easy, chivalrous road of self- 
accusation, of all that the intervening time had keld of 
doubt, and weariness would be to her so much hypocrisy 
and cowardly subterfuge. The crisis struck no fire of 
sympathy in her whik might have illuminated his curt 
and clumsy sentences. To her he was simply a criminal, 
and before her he became one tongue-tied, self-dis- 
trustful. 

She spoke at last and instinctively he braced himself. 

" Are you taking shelter behind your mother, or 
whom ? " she asked sneeringly. Then, as he did not 
answer, she got up. The stupor which had restrained her 
kitherto gave way. She shivered from head to foot, and 
her face was twisted and livid with the violence of her 
feeling. " And then you married me ! " she cried out 
" just to shield yourself " 

" Anne ! " 

" Well, didn't you ? " 

He strode at her and took her by the shoulders. For 
a moment she thought, in her horror of him, tfeat he 
would have struck her, and she threw back her head 
defying the blow with all the strength of hr contempt. 
But his eyes daunted her. They were neitker angry nor 
guilty but bewildered. 

"Anne, why in God's name did you marry me if you 
.thought of me like that ? " 

Her lips quivered. 

" I didn't think of you. like that." 



288 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" No, perhaps you didn't. You couldn't have thought 
of me at all. You just imagined me you never knew 
or wanted to know the man I really am. Now that the 
image is broken, there's nothing left. I am just some- 
body you don't know a total stranger, capable of any- 
thing " 

" Isn't it true ? " she persisted stubbornly. 

" No," he said. " It is not true." He thought a 
moment, and then added with grave simplicity, " It 
would never have occurred to me. You were just some 
one I was very fond of. I wanted to take care of 
you." 

She tried to laugh. 

"I suppose, having murdered the father, you thought 
it was your duty to marry the daughter." 

His hands dropped wearily to his sides. 

" If I hadn't been instrumental in your father's loss, 
if I had had the faintest hope of his ever being able to 
take his place in your life again, I wouldn't have asked 
you to be my wife. I shouldn't have dared draw N you into 
my life. But you were lonely and unhappy much as 
I was ' 

" You felt guilty and you pitied me," she interrupted 
with feverish excitement. " I suppose you think you've 
sacrificed yourself. You never wanted to marry me. It 
was always that woman that woman " 

" For pity's sake don't, Anne ! " he pleaded. 

" Why shouldn't I ? I've the right 

" You have not the right to say that," he said sternly. 
" I have behaved like a fool I have done you, as things 
turned, a great wrong ; but I have never thought of any 
other woman as my wife." 

" Not as your wife, perhaps," she interrupted wildly. 

He turned away from her. He felt physically sick 
and broken. The room, with its suffocating propriety, its 
prim order, seemed to him an integral part of the scene's 
sordidness. He had only one instinct left the thirst for 
the free air and the loneliness of the life to which he had 
belonged. She watched him in breathless silence, clasp- 
ing and unclasping her thin hands. She was the more 
resentful because He had driven her to an outburst of 
which she was ashamed. 

" When you found my father was going to get better, 
what did you expect ? " she began again. " I wonder 



THE PRICE PAID 280 

since ypu had gone so far that you didn't finish your 
work." 

A faint,, bitter amusement touched his white lips. 

" Yes, Anne, you would wonder that. But I am a 
doctor not so much by profession as by instinct. I 
have to save to heal where I can. Even then I might 
have failed in this instance and not found myself guilty. 
But he was your father I wanted you to be happy I 
think it it inspired me to do more than I could other- 
wise have done." 

" What did you expect between us afterwards ? " she 
persisted. 

The smile lingered, but without its bitterness. 

" Oh, I don't know, Anne but something different 
from this. I knew that you'd be pained, even horrified 
that was only natural. But I thought you knew me well 
enough to see the less ugly side. I had a foolish fancy 
even that in such a crisis we might find each other 
understand each other better. Well I've been wrong 
all the way." 

She was silent for a moment, gathering together the 
storm-scattered principles of her life. She was trying to 
be just, charitable, towards him. The tears glistened on 
her cheeks. 

" I dare say you did mean to make me happy, Tris. 
But you see, you couldn't. One can't build up happiness 
on sin." 

" I did not feel myself guilty not in that way," he said 
gently. 

" But you were guilty." Her voice hardened. " It 
was a crime to have struck a man down for the sake of a 
mongrel dog 

He turned quickly. He felt mysteriously outraged, as 
though she had struck straight and deep into something 
vital in him. 

"It wasn't only a dog, Anne," he said. "It was the 

pain all the needless suffering " He did not try to 

finish. He could not have explained, because he knew 
it was not in her power to understand. For the first time 
he saw all that separated them not so much a gulf as 
a world, making her day his night. They were both 
silent. In a few minutes the superficial wrappings of 
their life had been torn off and its nakedness held them 
appalled . 



290 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

The door opened softly and the new nurse who had com 
with Dr. Martin looked in for an instant. 

" He is coming round, Major Tristram," she said. 

" Very well, nurse. I'll be with you at once." 

He went towards the door, but Anne forestalled him. 
Her face was composed and very set, though the tears 
still hung on her long lashes. 

" I don't want you to I don't think you ought to ' 

He- looked at her grimly. 

" As you wieh. Dr. Martin must be outside somewhere. 
I'll explain. He can take over the case." 

" Explain what do you mean ? " 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

" We're got to begin somewhere. Better now." 

She stared at him blankly. 

" You don't mean you can't mean you're not going 
to tell people ? " 

" I must. Besides, isn't it what you wish ? " 

She turned away and sat down, burying her face in her 
hands. She was crying softly, helplessly, like a child. 
He came back to her and stood over her as though his first 
impulse to comfort her had been checked by recollection. 

" Anne, I am a clumsy beggar I don't understand I 
don't know what you want 

" You can't tell every one," she sobbed wildly. "You 
can't, Tri. It would be too cruel. Think of all the 
people you'd hurt who would have to suffer with you 
all of us, eren even our child even father. You mustn't 
do it, Tris. Father may have changed he will be so 
happy I shall beg him for his own sake as well as for mine. 
He'll do as I ask I'm sure he will. Tris it's awful to 
know this awful thing oneself but for others to know too 
and all the scandal " 

She was incoherent in her piteous despair, but now he 
understood her. 

" You forget Ayeshi, Anne," he said, " and all I owe 
him." 

" Ayeshi ? But people only suspect he's in hiding 

because of some money he took wkat does he matter ? 
No one could prove anything only father and he can 
clear Ayeshi best of all. Don't you see that or don't you 
care ? Do you want me to suffer ? " 

He winced. 

" I'll do whatever you want, Anne," he said heavily. 



THE PRICE PAID 291 

" Everything on earth I can do. But I've got to think. 
I'll tell Martin I've had marching orders, or some lie. 
He knows the case, and can do everything as well as I could. 
I'll clear out to Heerut. I've got to see Ayeshi. In the 
meantime, you'll have breathing space to think thing!; 
over too and to decide. You can let me know." He 
went to the door and there hesitated and looked back at 
her with pitying wistfulness. "Anne, I don't repent 
much what I did to your father I can't but you didn't 
deserve to be hurt. And I've hurt you'. I can't forgive 
myself that ever." 

He waited an instant. She did not move and he went 
out closing the door softly behind him. 






CHAPTER VIII 

RETURN 

" \\ 7"HEN I heard folks say the place was haunted J 

VV J us fc laughed in their faces," Mrs. Sinithers 

asserted moodily. " I don't hold with ghosts 

and them sort, and in a general way I don't believe in them. 

But I believe in this ghost all right. We've tried to scrub 

it out, but it won't go and it's got the grouch on us for 

trying. It's just sucking the polish out of the furniture. 

And it's sucking the life out of me ; I know that." 

She turned to her companion lying curled up in the big 
basket chair and challenged contradiction with her own 
appearance. Sigrid looked back at her gravely. 

" Your wig's crooked, Smithy dear. Of late its angle has 
been persistently drunken." 

" What's it matter ! " Mrs. Smithers returned. " Who 
cares ? We might as well be drunk for all the notice these 
stuck-up nobodies take of us. What's the use of being 
respectable if there's no one to see ? Might as well fade 
away comfy, that's my opinion." ^Whereupon, suiting her 
.action to her words, she snatched the offending erection 
from her head, sat on it, and proceeded to rumple up the 
short grey hair till the last vestige of propriety was lost 
in a ludicrously rakish disorder. " Well, I've been re- 
spectable for your sake for two solid years, Sigrid, and 
it's nigh done for me. Now I'm myself again, and I mean 
to stick to meself or bust ; so there." 

Sigrid gave a laugh that ended with a sigh. 

"Your nice, wicked, unprincipled self, Smithy! It 
reminds me of old times." 

" H'm, does it ? Well, nothing reminds me of old times 
in this horrible place. Nothing not even you. You're 
just the outsides of what you wer^, Sigrid a sort of 
husk. I don't know where you are but the real you 

292 



RETURN 293 

isn't here at all and a good job too." She paused and 
then wistfully, rather shyly : " You don't even play 
nowadays, my dear." 

Sigrid got up slowly. 

" Smithy, one couldn't play in this room. I could play 
in a garret or in the streets, but not here. Fancy Beet- 
hoven and that marble atrocity ! Even Elgar ! No, no, 
I couldn't." She went out past Mrs. Smithers on to the 
verandah and there lingered for a moment. " Look at the 
sunshine! " she said dreamily. " That, at least, is always 
the same for the just and the unjust, the happy and the 
unhappy. Doesn't that console you ? " 

Mrs. Smithers shook her head. 

" It isn't the same. It's an awful thing here. They 
say if it goes on beating down like that it will mean thou- 
sands and thousands of deaths. It's cruel. But, such as 
it is, it don't come inside this place, Sigrid. It beats down 
on the road out there, but it don't touch us. We're walled 
in the Lord knows by what but we're walled in." 

Sigrid took her lace parasol and went down the steps 
to the wide avenue which swept round in a semi-circle to 
the road. She still moved with her smooth, tigerish elas- 
ticity, but she herself was conscious of an overwhelming 
fatigue. It was as Smithy said the spirit of the place 
had triumphed. Little by little it had overpowered the 
garish, incongruous splendours with which Barclly had 
sought to change its character. The life and gaiety which 
he had schemed for had never crossed the threshold, and 
now he no longer fought, but in sullen acquiescence 
watched gloom and decay rise like a sombre tide over its 
old ground. The place was moribund. The people in it 
moved softly and spoke instinctively in hushed voices as 
though somewhere in those empty rooms some one lay 
dead. 

Sigrid reached the compound gates. It was still early 
in the morning, but the heat burnt down on the white 
road with the reflected fierceness of a near and monstrous 
fire. The air was thick and tasted metallic. A bullock- 
wagon toiled up towards Gaya, came to an exhausted halt, 
and then, in response to listless imprecations, creaked 
heavily on its way. The mingled sweat and dust lay in 
ridges on the animals' heaving flanks and scored the dark 
faces which were turned for a moment in Sigrid's direction. 
Man and brute were curiously allied in that blank and 



294 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

yet piteous stare. It was as though both visaged suffer- 
ing and visaged it dumbly, patiently, accepting it as the 
decree of life. 

Then all was still again. 

A man on horseback turned the bend of the road and 
came at a lumbering walk down-hill towards the bungalow. 
She stood and watched him and an odd, unsteady smile 
of recognition played with the corners of her lips. Xo 
other man in Gaya rode such a lank, spindle-legged mare, 
no other man cut so quaint a figure, no other man could 
have worn those clothes and borne himself so bravely. 
For, despite that touch of the grotesque, there was something 
splendid and royal about him, something in his bigness, 
in the grand lines of his body, in his freedom and uncon- 
sciousness that made him physically kin to those giants 
whose fearless, joyous living glimmers through history 
and legend to the Siegfrieds and the Beowulfs and the 
Parsifals, men of the forest and the mountain, who drank 
deep of life at its source and died on heights which our day 
has forgotten. 

He carried a yellow-haired dog under one arm and an 
ordinary covered wicker basket was tied to his saddle, and 
despite his efforts jolted somewhat to the plaintive protests 
of a cat's mewing. 

She would have turned and avoided him, but the big- 
ness of 'him had held her riveted too long. He drew rein 
and swung himself to the ground beside her. 

" I've brought you Richard," he said simply. He did 
not offer her his hand or greet her, although they had not 
spoken to each other for many weeks. He seemed to sweep 
all -ceremony aside. 

" I ought to. have brought him before I promised, 
didn't. I ? but somehow I couldn't. It was like a slight 
to Wickie. He's had a rotten time though, poor chap. 
You'll make it up to him, I know." 

She patted the mongrel's distrustful snout. The man's 
proximity shook her composure so that she seized eagerly 
on the first thought that came to her. 

" What other passengers have you on board ? " she said, 
with a little nod towards the heaving and mysteriously 
creaking basket at his saddle. 

' .My tabbies," he said solemnly. "They've got rather 
obstreperous since we've been civilised. My wife doesn't 
like them running about after me, so they had to be shut 



RETURN 295 

ap, poor beggars, and there's nothing like shutting people 
up for bringing the devil out of them. Now I'm taking 
them with me to Heerut." He smiled a little. "I'm going 
back to the wilderness," he said. 

He took off his helmet and ran his hand through the 
thick, tawny hair with a gesture like that of a sleeper 
freeing himself from the clouds of an evil dream. The 
light striking through the branches of the mohwa-tree lit 
up his face, and, looking up at him and reading all that 
the last months had wroughtj she felt a pang of angry pity. 
If this was Siegfried, then it was not the Siegfried of 
Brunnhilde's fiery mountain, but the man of the Rhine 
Valley, Gudruna's man, fettered by civilisation and 
weakened by its trickery and dishonesty! Had he also 
drunk of the cup of forgetfulness, she wondered ? Had 
he lost his vision of the fire-girded rocks above where 
he had won his manhood ? A flicker of the old mockery 
shone in her eyes. 

" You don't look very well, Major Tristram," she said. 

He shook his head. 

" Oh, I'm well enough physically at any rate.", He 
laid his hand on his heart with a rueful laugh. " I've got 
a sort of spiritual indigestion though it's this life it 
doesn't suit me or my tabbies. It's too neat and tidy. 
I'm like that what's-his-name person who had to put his 
hand to his mother earth to keep strong. I need to be 
doing and fighting, struggling for existence ,in my mother 
wilderness to keep decent. Well, I shall have enough of 
that out there. Unless the drought breaks soon we're 
going to have more trouble. The unhappy folk in the 
village are beginning to die off like flies, and when the 
famine comes ? " He shrugged his shoulders. 

" You don't look fit for such work," she exclaimed 
bitterly. 

" I'm tired that's all. I had a stiff day of it yester- 
day." He looked at her with a flash of boyish enthusiasm. 
" Hasn't any one told you ? " 

"No one has told me anything," she said. "People 
don't rush here with their latest gossip." 

He flushed painfully. 

" Oh, well, it isn't exactly gossip. It's about Bouci- 
cault." 

" Boucicault ? " 

"Yes. You know Sir Gilbert Foster gave him up. 



296 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Well, I found something Sir Gilbert didn't a little >pot 
on the brain not bigger than a pin's head. I opt 
yesterday, and I believe he'll get well. Isn't that a feather 
in my cap ? " 

He looked up, smiling into the sunlight, and waited for 
her to speak, until the silence became oppressive. Then 
he turned to her, drawn by an instinct which the next 
instant he knew was justified. He caught her by the ami, 
shaken from all his resolute self-possession by what her 
face revealed to him. 

" Sigrid what is it you're ill in pain " 

But she freed herself almost violently, steadying her- 
self, forcing the blood back into her cheeks by a sheer 
effort of the will. 

"It's nothing don't fuss over me. It's the heat 
nothing more " 

" Then you ought not to be out here." 

She laughed defiantly. 

" You're not my doctor, Major Tristram, and I won't 
be bullied. Besides, you've whetted my curiosity. There 
now, I'm all right again. What were you saying about 
Colonel Boucicault * You you operated, and now he's 
going to get well ? " 

" I think so." But he answered absently. He 
still intent on her face, striving to get beneath the mask. 
The moment's livid pallor had gone, but sh,- was none Un- 
less changed Her voice, level and quiet, had yet a new 
tone in it a kind of hoarseness which he knew as a symp- 
tom of exhaustion and pain. She turned away, trying 
to avoid his e 

'' Has he been able to speak ? " 

'' Kot yet. He is not even properly conscious. It 
may last some weeks." 

She gave a little c} T nical laugh. 

" I suppose some one will be glad." 

" Anne my wife." 

" Ah, yee your wife." Some new thought struck her. 
She turned back to him, with a line of perplexity bet 
her arched brows. Aren't you leaving him \ 
soon ? " 

He hesitated, and then answered slowly : 
" Dr. Martin is with him. I have to go to Heerut. It's 
not only my work. I've heard that Ayeshi's somewhere 
in these parts, and I've got to find him." 



RETURN 297 

" What do you want with Ayeshi ? " she asked, no 
less deliberately. 

" I've got to bring him back. I only heard yesterday 
of the suspicion which sent him into hiding, and, I am 
afraid, to the devil. The suspicion is unwarranted. He's 
got to come back and be cleared." 

" Poor Ayeshi ! " ,she said under her breath. 

He nodded, his eyes darkened with pain. 

" He has suffered horribly and unjustly." 

" Needlessly ! " she corrected vehemently. " Uselessly ! 
Who minds sacrifice or suffering or injustice so long as the 
end the purpose is clear and attained ? It's the pitiable 

uselessness r " She broke off, tapping the ground with 

an exasperated foot. But he had heard the tears in her 
voice. 

" Isn't that the horror of all suffering ? " he asked, 
wearily " its apparent uselessness ? We can only hope 
it leads somewhere." 

" Oh, for pity's sake don't be platitudinous ! " she 
burst out. " It's almost as though I was listening to 
Anne talking." 

" My wife ! " he reminded her sharply. 

" Oh, you are very loyal ! " she retorted. 

He was silent a moment, and then laughed, covering 
over his own pallor. * 

" It's only a sense of justice. A wife isn't responsible 
for the poor qualities of her husband's brains, is she ? " 

" She may be responsible for his becoming a sleek 
prig," she said cruelly, then, with a quick, almost girlish 
gesture of appeal: "Don't be angry, Major Tristram! 
The heat has disagreed with me mentally and physically. 
Let's talk of something else. Tell me something about 
your mother." 

He looked at her, puzzled, and naively pleased. 

" What shall I tell you about her ? " he asked. 

" Oh, I don't know tell me if she is well and happy." 

He bent down to stroke the dog at his feet, hiding 
his face. 

" I believe she is. In her last letter she hoped to live 
to welcome us both home " 

" Will that hope be gratified, Major Tristram ? " 

" I fear not," he answered unsteadily. 

She was silent, looking wistfully ahead into the white 
sunlight. 



298 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Ever since that day I saw her picture and heard her 
story I have been interested in your mother," she said at 
last. " She is the sort of woman whom one wants to be 
happy whose happiness one would like to shelter to the 
end." 

" One can't protect another's happiness," he said. 
" I've learned that much." 

" I also," she said gravely. 

He straightened up. His blue eyes rested on her face 
with a treacherous, smouldering trouble. 

" I can't help feeling that you're you're suffering," 
he said. " It's the only thing I'm quick at guessing at 
if it's only physical please go in and and rest 

She shook her head. There was a tenderness in her 
faint smile which a woman may feel for some big, clumsy, 
loving boy. 

" I'm not tired. I come down here every day and 
watch life go past." 

"Sigrid " He faltered. "Does that mean that 

you. are very lonely ? " 

"No not very. My husband is always away now. 
Mrs. Boucicault and Mary come sometimes and even 
Mrs. Bosanquet. I think they all love me, but they can't 
alter circumstances, and it makes them desperately un- 
happy. Often I wish they wouldn't come " She 

waited a moment, studying his set features with a pitying 
knowledge. " I know what you're thinking, Major Tris- 
tram. You're comparing this Lie with the golden palaces 
and the mountain-tops, with my splendid living and 
splendid dying." 

She burst out laughing and patted him on the arm. 
" Oh, my innocent friend, don't you know us mortals 
better than that don't you know how we love to air 
our borrowed souls and talk largely and pompously about 
the ideals we've cribbed out of a novel ? There is nothing 
in it nothing. I just sold myself for an easy life in a 
mud hut in the valley. Let that comfort you." 

He threw back his head, looking her full in the face. 

"That's a lie," he said. "You must have loved 
greatly." 

For a full minute they remained staring at each other 
in defiant silence. And under his unhappy eyes her ex- 
pression changed and grew careless and indifferent. 

" Well perhaps you're right, perhaps I did love with 



RETURN 299 

all my heart." She held out her hand. " But I am very, 
very tired now. The heat is appalling. I wish you God 
speed, Major Tristram." 

He scarcely touched her. He swung himself up into 
the saddle with a suddenness which startled Arabella into 
a youthful curvet. The tabbies mewed protest, and 
Tristram laid his hand soothingly on their basket. Then 
he looked down and saw Sigrid standing at his knee. The 
change in her held him motionless for all that every nerve 
in him ached for motion and action. Her small, pale face 
lifted itself to his in breathless eagerness ; her parted lips 
quivered, the eyes were fiery with the glitter of sternly 
mastered tears. 

" Tristram tell me are all the old dreams gone ? " 
she asked huskily. 

His mouth under the short ruddy moustache hardened. 

" I am going back to find them." 

" That's well go back, Tristram. They may be all 
that are" left any of us at the end. Our dreams are real 
reality is nothing. See !" She laid her hand on her 
breast with a curious gesture of self -accusation. " I am 
all your wife would call me just a mean, soulless fortune- 
hunter. You've found me out. There is not one fine or 
noble or high thing in me and yet your vision of the 
woman who danced that night, who has played to you the 
finest music in the world is no illusion, but the truth. 
Keep it remember it. Perhaps " she smiled faintly 
" your memory of her may bring Undine to her soul." 

He looked away from her. 

" I can't help myself " he said roughly. 

" Don't try. Let us keep all the beauty that we can." 

She laid her hand on Arabella's long neck and stroked 
it caressingly. And now something elfish and illusive 
dawned under her expression of intense earnestness. " Do 
you remember you used to go down to the temple when 
the moon rose and dream you saw me dance among the 
ruins : " 

" I was a romantic boy half crazed with loneliness " 

he broke in with repressed vehemence. 

" The moon rises to-night," she said, so gently that he 
scarcely heard her. Yet something insistent, patient in 
her forced him to meet her eyes. He saw that they were 
dry and brilliant, tragically exultant. They betrayed her 
careless smile, the affectation of demure mockery with 



300 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

which she once more gave him her hand. " Major Tris- 
tram, I have a foolish presentiment that we shall meet 
just once again and after that no more. Good-bye till 
then." . 

He did not answer. She- turned lightly away from him. 
And he rode on down towards the valley. 



CHAPTER IX 

FOR THE LAST TIME 

MEMORY has many merciless weapons, but none 
keener, crueller than a room which has belonged to 
our dead. Who amongst us has escaped that 
moment of return after what seems the culmination of all 
agonies when the mere position of a chair, a glove thrown 
clown idly and forgotten, a little touch of familiar dis- 
order tears open the freshly closed grave and shows us on 
our way to a new, seemingly endless road of pain ? , 

Something of that impotent grief laid hands on Tristram 
as he stood on the threshold of his old. home. The barely 
furnished room was as he had left it that night of Mere- 
dith's visit. An instinct had forbidden his return. Shortly 
afterwards he had gone to Trichinopoly to be married, 
and since then the place had stood deserted. 

The camp-bed had been tidied by Meredith's con- 
scientious hand, and the few breakfast things washed and 
replaced, but there was cigarette ash on the table and the 
lamp stood where it had burnt between them. It had a 
grey, dead look, as though it had burnt itself out. The 
chair where he had sat in that final hour of reckoning 
expressed vividly the movement with which he had risen. 
There were small, regular fragments of torn cardboard 
beneath the table, and the dust lay thick and white 
over them like a shroud. The dust was everywhere. It 
veiled the photograph of his mother so that he could not 
see her face. 

And the dead man whose personality the place expressed 
so poignantly was himself. He felt towards it as a spirit 
may do, looking down on the body which it has quitted 
for ever. Not years, but a deep, narrow gulf of experience 
separated him from the grcAra boy who had lived out his 
joyous, romantic creed between these wooden walls, who 

301 



302 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

had striven and dreamed in their cool solitude, and gone 
thence day after day to fight the bitterest of all realities, 
human suffering, himself living in a world of his own 
imagining. 

Looking back, he saw that those had been winged days 
of inspiration. He saw that in his dreams he had stood 
close to the inner life of men which is greater than reality, 
and had seen visions and been dimly, gloriously aware of 
great truths. These things had gone from him. He 
stood with his feet planted on firm earth and knew nothing 
but the dust and the turmoil and the darkness. 

But because there was stern stuff in him, he went about 
his work patiently. With the help of the servant who 
accompanied him, he dusted and tidied like a woman, 
unpacked his medicine-chest and set out his instruments 
in their glass cases. The two tabbies which he had set at 
liberty prowled disconsolately about their old home, 
seeming to miss something. He called to them and fed 
them, but they did not respond, and presently they 
slipped out into the street and vanished. He let them 
go. He felt that they would not return. They had for- 
gotten him and had grown wild in their captivity. 

The brief dusk which precedes the Indian night-shrouded 
the village street, when at last, his work done, he cam* 
out and closed the door of the hut behind him. The 
street was empty. That fact did not as yet appear strange 
to hint, for the murderous heat of the day, far from re- 
laxing, seemed to have become intensified and hung thick 
and sullen in the tainted air. Overhead the sky threw off 
its brazen robes and came out in a luminous purple, whose 
darker brilliancy was no less sinister. As yet there was 
no sign of the break for which the land waited in gasping 
agony. 

Tristram went on his way towards the cross-roads. He 
passed a little group of old men returning from the river 
and would have spoken to them, but tEey salaamed and 
there wag something in that ceremonious greeting, in their 
stony, expressionless faces which chilled the blood and 
forced him to go on wordless. 

It was dark by the time he reached the council- tree. 
As he approached he had heard a murmur of voices, which 
were hushed as his shadow loomed up over the circle of 
squatting figures. In the brightening starlight, he recog- 
nised Lalloo in the place of honour at the foot of the 



FOR THE LAST TIME 303 

battered idol. Other forma he recognised, and for the 
first time he became aware that he had seen only old men 
since his return. 

The circle greeted him gravely. He sat down at Lalloo's 
side and filled his pipe. He talked of the drought and of 
the coming famine and asked after those ke knew. The 
glowing bowl of his pipe threw a dull reflection on his face, 
and he felt that their eyes were fixed on him. They an- 
swered his questions with a measured slowness as though 
each word had to be chosen and weighed, and when his 
questions ceased they too became silent. One after an- 
other a shadow rose from the circle and glided out into 
the darkness. 

Presently only Lalloo remained. 

Tristram got up. 

" Tell me," he said, " what is happening here ? " 

Lalloo lifted himself slowly and stood deferentially 
bowed, his hand caressing his beard. 

"Nothing-, Sahib." 

Tristram smoked placidly. 

" That is a lie, Lalloo. Once you were my friend." 

" It is long since the Dakktar Sahib lived amongst us." 

" Is friendship forgotten from one day to another 1 " 

" There is a saying, Sahib, that it must be won every 
day afresh." 

Tristram was silent for a moment, hiding from the other's 
eyes how sure and deadly the thrust had been. Then he 
shrugged his shoulders. 

" I'm afraid fate means to give me another chance to 
serve you and win your friendship, Lalloo." 

" The wheel turns but once in a life-time," was th 
enigmatic answer. 

" That may be. Well, I don't intend to cadge for your 
good-will. I shall stay here and see you through whatever 
is coming. In the meantime, tell me where can I find 
Ayeshi ? " 

Lalloo gave no sign. 

" Ayeshi comes no more " he said. 

" Doesn't he ? " Tristram laughed grimly. " Well, 
the next time he doesn't come, will you tell him that I 
must see him. Perhaps his friendship will have worn better. 
Tell him that he may return to us in safety and honour." 

" There is no return for Ayeshi, Sahib." 

" Dead ? " 



304 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Lalloo glanced up through the darkness into the English- 
man's face. For a minute his own manner changed, 
losing something of its impassive reticence. 

" Sahib, there are things which no man may forget and 
prosper. For the sake of one memory leave here, leave 
Gaya there is an illness coming which even the cunning 
hand of the Dakktar Sahib cannot stay " 

" Is that a threat, Lalloo ? Do you know me so little 
that you think I should turn tail ' 

The old money-lender lifted his hand almost with 
authority. 

" No man can change the course of his fate, Sahib. But 
I have paid my debt." 

He salaamed and slipped away into the irregular sil- 
houette which the tumble-down huts threw into the pal'-ly 
lit street. 

Tristram lingered a moment. His pipe had gone out, 
and he lit it again with an affectionate care, which covered 
tension. An instinct, more delicate than a seismograph, 
inherited from men who had learnt at bitter cost the 
significance of a glance, had warned him. It fed itself 6n 
the unbroken silence, on the fevered, palpitating heat. 
The bo-tree, whose leaves quivered to the faintest breath, 
was still as though it, too, was aware of an approaching 
change and listened for its footfall. The very light which 
filtered down from the stars and poured in a pale stream 
between the black banks of the street carried with it a 
suggestion of a near and brooding menace. 

Tristram walked slowly up towards the northern entrance 
of the village. In the past he would not have walked 
alone. There would have been Ayeshi on one side of him 
and some woe-begone villager on the other, with Wickie 
scampering in and out among the shadows, pursuing, with 
the uncrushable optimism of his kind, the elusive mouse. 
And Tristram, listening in memory to those past sounds 
and voices, was overwhelmed, not with a sense of an 
invisible danger, but with a bitter loneliness. He had 
now only one desire, and that to get away from these 
silent, watching walls, out into the open. 

He walked fast, but by the time he had reached the 
narrow road along the river the first bar of moonlight 
had struck across the valley. He stood still again, for 
beneath the sullen muttering of the water he had heard 
other sounds. 



FOR THE LAST TIME 305 

Two horsemen rode out of the shadow. He made way 
for them, and as they came abreast the man nearest to him 
turned his head, so that the light fell full on to his face. 

Tristram sprang to the horse's head, forcing the startled 
animal to its haunches. The rider made 9 sound, but his 
companion turned about instantly and bore down upon 
Tristram as though to force him back into the river. In 
that swift course of action not a word had been spolpen on 
either side. The Englishman held his ground. With an 
iron skill, he dragged the phmging horse about so that it 
came between him and his aggressor, who reined in fran- 
tically on the very verge of the steep and muddy bank. 

" Ayeshi ! " Tristram exclaimed, imperatively. 

The Hindu peered down into his face. The recognition 
for which Tristram waited with passionate hope did not 
come. Ayeshi drew himself up in the saddle. 

" Let me pass, Major Tristram." 

Tristram laughed between his teeth. The hope was dead 
in him. " JSTo, by the Lord, I won't. You've got to listen 
to me first. I don't know what devil's game you're play- 
ing; but I know what you've done what you've sacrificed 
for me vou've got to listen I've a right to ask this of 
you " 

The second rider burst out laughing. Tristram could 
not see his face, but the laugh had a familiar ring. A pale 
satiric smile quivered at Ayeshi's mouth. 

" I have ceased to be your servant, Major Tristram ! " 

J< Have you ceased to be my friend as well ? " 

He waited. He heard a whispered appeal. Ayeshi's 
companion shifted his position and Tristram, though he 
could see nothing, knew that he was now covered by a 
revolver. He knew, too, that it was no threat but an 
intention. Death tugged at the leash. He drew himself 
up to meet it. Had he possessed a weapon, he would not 
have sought to defend himself. An overwhelming indiffer- 
ence akin to relief rested on him. He released Ayeshi's 
bridle and stood back a step. He was like a drowning 
man, fighting off the final and fatal apathy. " Is there no 
memory, Ayeshi, which gives me the right to appeal to 
you ? " he asked. 

The smile faded from the Hindu's haggard features. He 
threw back the loose white sleeve from his arm and pointed 
to the wrist. 

" There is one memory, Major Tristram, against a 



306 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

hundred wrongs with which your race has afflicted me and 
mine. That memory has saved you. A life for a life 

He made a gesture of proud authority. The next instant, 
both men were riding at a fast canter into the darkness. 

Tristram listdRd absently to the water as it poured over 
the rhythmic thud of hoofs, till there was no sound left 
but its own languid murmur. The indifference with 
which he had faced the end receded from him like a nar- 
cotic before the returning tide of pain. He saw now that 
in that moment death had seemed not so much a release 
as a blotting out of failure, a passing on to the hope of a 
new and greater achievement. For he had failed. Upon 
the recognition Ayeshi had set the seal. He had ploughed 
and sown and watered the acre of earth which had been 
given to him in stewardship, and there was no harvest. He 
had poured out his strength and faith over that beloved 
ground, and it lay before him in hard unfruitfulness. The 
magnitude of his bankruptcy staggered and stupefied him. 

It would have been better for others had Ayeshi forgotten 
his debt better for Anne, entangled innocently in the 
mesh of his blunders, for his mother who would have seen 
in that death only a mysterious, tragic repetition. Both 
would have been spared the pitiable anti-climax of his 
career, one at least the publicity of an incomprehensible 
dishonour. He stood at the edge of the water, listening 
to its luring whisper as it slid past in the blackness beneath 
him, thinking of those two women. For in them he had 
worked out his creed of happiness, in them he had failed 
most utterly. One other woman indeed crossed his thought, 
but she stood apart, neither failure nor success, but a 
golden figure of enigma, a fancy, a dream that had become 
a reality, and had separated itself from him and gone into 
the turmoil and mastery of life, a separate individuality 
lost to him for ever. 

The moon rose slowly and majestically above Gaya's 
mountain. It poured its pale splendour over the plain 
and changed the black-flowing river into a polished, glitter- 
ing road of silver- The man wrestling with his last problem 
stood in the midst of the light, his shadow , thrown in 
gigantic outline against the high-standing grasses. And 
little by little the light permeated his greater darkness 
and reached his knowledge. He lifted his eyes from the 
black temptation and despair of the waters to the faintly 
shadowed disc rising in serene immortality amidst the 



FOE THE LAST TIME 307 

music of her million worshippers. And suddenly the 
tension and horror passed from him. He lifted his arms 
above his head with a gesture of release and greeting. 
His stifled lungs drew in the life which came down to him 
from those vast heights of infinity. 

This much remained ; for the foolish and the wise, for 
the successful and the failures, for Lazarus starving in the 
gutter and the rich man starving at his loaded table the 
earth's godliness, man's oneness with her and with his 
brother, as yet but dimly felt and broken by devastating 
storms of passion, yet moving on triumphantly to the 
divine, far-off event of perfect unity. Thus in his isolation 
he was not alone, but could reach out in fellowship to the 
whole earth. It did not matter that he had failed. Others 
would follow stronger and wiser than himself. They would 
till his barren acre perhaps out of his very dust would 
spring the harvest which had been denied him. 

The moment's ecstasy passed, but behind it followed a 
deep and healing serenity. He walked on slowly. " Our 
dreams are real reality is nothing," Sigrid had said, and 
now the words were illuminated with his own knowledge. 
They gave her back to him. They lifted her figure out of 
the sordid ugliness of the events which had blurred and 
marred his vision of her. He had known her best when 
he had known her least, and as he knew her so she would 
belong to him and go down with him through all the years. 

He reached the temple gateway. He did not know 
nor care what power had drawn him there. He stood in 
the entrance looking into the moon-flooded court, remem- 
bering those far-off nights when he had come there to 
picture her as he had seen her amidst the trumperies of a 
stage churchyard, transfiguring them with the energising 
spirit of her genius. His imagination had painted her 
amidst the grandeur of these broken pillars. In his roman- 
tic fancy it had not seemed incongruous that she should 
dance against the background of .an alien thought and art. 
Fearlessly he had linked beauty with beauty, perfection 
with perfection. 

And as he stood there gazing down the softly radiant 
avenue of columns towards the black entrance to the 
antarila he saw her. He knew one moment's agony of 
doubt, of fear, of mental disintegrations as tkough the 
marvel of it had torn down the walls of his mind and 
spirit, thrusting him out into a bottomless void. Then, as 



308 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

a falling bird spreads out its wings and swings back in 
safety to its old heights, his mind rose out of the moment's 
chaos and went to her in passionate recognition. It did 
not matter then whether she was fancy or reality, whether 
he was sane or mad. The splendour and wonder of it was 
all. 

At first she was a shadow among shadows. She seemed 
to hover on the verge of the light as a thought hovers 
on the verge of form. Then, without effort, seemingly 
without movement, so still and quiet did she hold her 
whole body, she glided out of the darkness, and, with her 
arms raised above her head, her face lifted to the flood 
of moonlight, she stood still, sur la pointe, poised in attitude 
of joyful waiting. 

She wore the low bodice and short, full skirts of the old 
classic ballet. A slender wreath of laurel crowned the 
smooth, fair head. Though as yet she stood afar off 
from him, he knew that her eyes laughed, that her mouth 
was open in that wide, frank smile of happiness, that 
she was breathing deep with the foretaste of ecstasy. He 
knew, too, for what she waited for the bar of music which 
should set her free. 

It came at last. He heard it rush down through the 
stillness. It caught her up on its crest and swept her 
down the path of silver towards him. He knew it and 
recognised it. Its delirious beauty poured through his 
blood. And even if his instinct had not seized it she would 
have taught him. Her movements, her hands, her feet, 
her body sang it to him. 

She danced. Even in these moments when all clear 
thought was suspended he knew that this was something 
that his generation had never seen. It was the final word 
of a great art, often debased, now lifted to the heights 
where the soul pours through the body to triumphant 
expression. 

She danced. Her shadow rose and fell upon the grey. 
time-defaced columns not more silently. There M, 
technical feat that she did not strike like a note of music 
in her passage, but the marvel of it was lost. As the daring 
flight of a gull, swooping from precipice to precipice, 
becomes a simple thing of ease and beauty, so her laughing, 
dangerous steps over the uneven flags seemed no" more 
than an instinctive, effortless volition. As the brook leaps 
and sparkles over its rocky bed, now in sunlight, now in 



FOR THE LAST TIME 309 

shadow, now rushing forward in headlong eagerness, now 
caught in a clear pool and held an instant in quivering 
suspense, so joyously and fearlessly she passed from the 
quick, brilliant passage of the waltz to its slower, deeper 
movement. 

She danced. And it was a religion. Amongst the shades 
of departed worshippers she was the living spirit. She 
called them back from their dust-strewn oblivion to the . 
rites of their mystic faith. She leapt the barriers of time 
and race. The ruined Hindu temple, its towering Sikhara 
rising up over its holy mystery to the stars, identified itself 
with her ; she became its priestess, it became her natural 
background, the splendid shrine of her genius. 

She danced. As David danced before the Lord, so she 
offered up the incense of her art to whatever was divine in 
that crumbling monument to man's faith in God. Greater 
than prayer or praise was the joy of her body and the 
laughter of her face lifted to the moonlight. 

She danced. She had the austerity of nature. Her 
appeal to the senses was the appeal of a flower, of a butter- 
fly's wing, of a lark singing amidst the azure, of the forest 
and the mountain and the running water. It was the 
appeal by which the earth calls men back to their sonship 
and the knowledge of her divinity. 

She danced. And to the man who watched her she was 
all things that he had ever loved, ever believed in, ever 
hoped for. 

A cloud passed over the moon and threw the temple 
into obscurity. She was for the moment only the shadow 
of herself. It seemed to him that the music had broken 
off and that she too had faltered. Then, as the light came 
out from behind the drifting darkness, he saw her glide 
down the avenue of columns, on tip-toe, her arms raised, 
her small fair head thrown back as though she drank in 
the growing radiance. 

But her expression had changed. Her face had a look 
of child-like awe, of breathless, startled wonder. 

She danced. It was the apotheosis. 

She came like a leaf blown before the wind and like a 
leaf sank slowly to the ground. She was so small, so frail 
and white, she seemed no more than a flower lying on the 
great stone flags beneath the pillars. 

He ran out to her. He knelt beside her and gathered 
her up with her head against his knee, calling her by name. 



310 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

But it was only the half-dazed dreamer who called her, for 
one glance ^at that white still face, with the faintly shadowed 
lips, told him that she could not answer. He lifted her in 
his arms. For all the sick horror that drove its claws into 
him he was still too much the man of action to hesitate. 
She was so light. It seemed to him that he carried a tired, 
sleeping child something so frail and tender that his own 
strength seemed giant-like and almost brutal. He scarcely 
felt the burden of her, and yet before he reached the out- 
skirts of the villag* he knew himself broken by her near- 
ness. Her warmth enreloped him. He could feel the 
faint, irregular breath against his cheek. A perfume more 
subtle than a flower's reached his senses and stirred them 
to an exaltation that was beyond reason, far beyond desire. 
Her face rested against his shoulder and he could hare 
bent and touched her cheek with his lips. He did not. 
He carried a Holy Thing a ressel into which the Creator 
had poured all beauty a lamp whose flame of genius 
flickered beneath the breath of death, a woman whom he 
loved with all the force and passion of his manhood. Be- 
neath great banks of sullen cloud rolling up over the moon's 
silvered field, the village slept or seemed to sleep. He 
strode through its forbidding silence like a man possessed. 
He had become invulnerable, omnipotent. There was no 
force on earth that he could not have met and scorned in 
that hour save the invisible spectre stalking at his elbow. 

He reached his hut at last and laid her on the camp-bed. 
He lit the lamp and with ruthless, skilful fingers ripped open 
the close-fitting bodice about her breast. He forced a 
stimulant between the blue lips. In everything he was 
as swift and sure as though no fear knocked at his heart, 
as though his own pulses beat with the smoothness of old 
custom. 

It was done at last all that he could do. She lay 
there hi her deep unconsciousness like a fair princess from 
a child's dream. The Laurel wreath had freed itself from 
the pale gold of her hair and fallen back upon her pillow, 
making a dark frame for her et In-real pallor. He took it 
gently and laid it on the table. Up. to that moment he had 
held himself in an iron calm, but the touch of that simple 
ornament, with its poignant significance, struck deeper 
than all his memories. He turned to her and knelt down 
beside her, pressing the still hand to his lips in an agony of 
helpless pity. 



FOR THE LAST TIME 311 

The seconds passed. Each one, for the man kneeling 
there, was measured by the sound of the quick-drawn, 
shallow breath. Each one, as it passed, left behind a 
deepening hope. His fingers rested on her pulse, and 
as though his will drew her back from the depths into 
which she had been sinking, he felt it slowly steady and 
strengthen. 

And suddenly he looked up, knowing that her eyes were 
open. 

They were very clear very peaceful. They looked down 
into his haggard face with a wondering tenderness. Her 
lips moved. Twice she essayed to speak. He drew closer 
to her. 

" Wasn't it the end ? " she whispered. He shook 

his head. He could not have answered her. "Isn't it 
the end, Tristram ? I'm I'm dying, am I not ? Tell me 
I'm not afraid not very tell me " 

" No please God " 

She smiled with a ghostly touch of her old mockery. 

" You you believe in God, Tristram. Do you care so 
much?" 

" Yes I care." 

She lifted her little hand as though it was almost too 
heavy a burden for her weakness, and laid it on his 
bowed head. 

"It doesn't matter what we say to each other now we 
don't need to pretend. I'd hoped there would be no 
coming back, but now I'm glad. I love you, Tristram." 

" I love you," he answered. 

And therewith there came silence and peace into his 
tumult. The warring events of their lives poured into a 
deep and tranquil river flowing on irresistibly seawards. 
They knew now with the great certainty which comes in 
such moments that there was no end, no power in heaven 
or earth to blot out that simple confession and all that 
it must mean, now and in whatever hereafter awaited 
them. He could look into her face over which death 
had passed its hand, without fear, almost without pain. 
She too had ceased to suffer. Her hand caressed him 
softly. 

" I knew you would come, Tristram." 

" I had to all the time I was coming to you." 

" I danced for you. I've never danced like that before 
it was the last time " 



312 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Sigrid if you knew why did you do it ? why have 
you hurt us both ? " 

" Have I hurt you ? " She drew herself up a little, 
looking down at him with an exquisite compassion in her 
fading eyes. " Dear, it was to make you happy to give 
you back all you had lost I wanted you to see me at the 
last on the mountain-top in my goklen palace don't 

you remember ? Not in decay and ugliness but in 

beauty." 

" It has always been in beauty ! " he cried out in passion- 
ate protest. 

She shook her head. Her eyes no longer saw him. They 
were fixed ahead on some brightening vision. 

" Not always. You and I we saw the same sunrise 
but we were afar off from each other. We stood on different 
mountain-peaks there was a great valley between, which 
one of us had to cross before we could stand together. 
And one night I couldn't bear to be so far off from you 
and I saw that your mountain- peak was higher than mine 
and nearer to the sun and I made up my mind. I came 
down from my heights and went through the valley. It 
was so ugly quagmire and darkness and loathsome 
things ^sometimes I felt I could never be clean again 
and some times that I should not have the strength to 
reach you and in that time you could not see me but 
in the nd we stood together we're near each other now, 
Tristram " 

Her voice faded into an exhausted silence. He knew that 
her mind was clouded with a rising mist of old memories, 
old doubts and struggles. He could not wholly under- 
stand, and yet the recognition of an immeasurable, fear- 
lessly born suffering came to him with her broken, fevered 
murmurs. 

He bowed his face upon her hands. 

" My mountain heights oh, Sigrid, they have been low 
enough if you knew how low- 



I know everything everything " 

He was silent. The certainty, serene and complete. 
broke in a shaft of light through his darkness. He lifted 
his face to hers. Her eyes were closed. Her fair head had 
fallen a little on one side in an attitude of great weariness. 
Slowly, in answer to his imperative appeal, her eyes opened. 
They were at first dim and expressionless as though she 
withdrew her sight from some inner vision. 



FOR THE LAST TIME 313 

" Everything Sigrid ? " 

" Ever3~thing," she answered. 

" Barclay " 

" He told me but I knew more I knew everything. 
Because I loved you I understood." A fine, contemptuous 
smile touched her suffering lips. " I knew Anne, too. I 
knew how she had chosen " 

He got up, driven to his feet by an intolerable knowledge. 

'' Then you shielded me " 

" Do you grudge me that little comfort ? " she whis- 
pered. Then as he stood staring down at her, she made a 
little helpless effort to touch his hand. " Bracelet brother 
you mustn't be too proud " 

" Oh, God " he burst out. " It isn't that don't you 

know I love you too and you've suffered " 

" I've lived as I wished to live," she said with a sudden 
thrilling clearness, " and when I couldn't help you any more 
when I saw that it was all useless I made an end my 
end. I didn't mean to tell you I meant to leave you a 
perfect memory and to go silently. But you called me 
back. You made me if you love me you will be 
glad." 

She struggled up on to her elbow, gasping for breath, 
and he saw the greyness creeping to her cheeks. He 
turned to fetch fresh stimulants, but she clung to him with 
an incredible strength. 

' ' No stay with me, Tristram these must be perfect 
minutes we've earned them they're ours there's no- 
thing to regret a happy death it's what we live for 
I'm happy madly happy. Stay with me, Tristram 
don't leave me in all this darkness " 

He dropped to his knees beside her. He slipped his 
arm beneath her shoulders, holding her in an embrace 
of desperate tenderness. She threw back her head, 
smiling. 

" Kiss me, Tristram." 

Their lips met. She fell back with a short sigh and 
lay still, her mouth a little open as though in the midst 
of a laughing triumph she had fallen asleep. But presently 
she stirred and drew closer to him. 

' Happy, Tristram ? " 

" Yes," he answered. 

And indeed all anguish, all fear had gone from them both. 
They had gone down together into a sea in which there was 



314 TRISTRAM SAHIR 

no thought, no memory, no desire. The coming night 
enclosed them, shielding them from the future. 

" It's because I'm dying ' Then suddenly she 

laughed softly, contentedly. "Those steps in the fast 
movement no one no one has ever dared them no one 
has ever danced like that it was a great triumph the 
greatest " 

He bent and touched her forehead with his cheek, 
soothing her. She smiled a little as though in gratitude, 
and sighing., fell asleep. 

He did not move. He knelt there listening to her 
breathing. It hypnotised him, drowning his conscious- 
ness in its sweet, unbroken rhythm. It conveyed no mean- 
ing to him. He had passed out of the regions of hope and 
dread into the serenity of resignation. 

Far off, in some other world, he heard the whisper of 
rain, the patter of heavy drops in the dust-laden street. 
He heard voices exultant, hysterical. A pregnant cool- 
ness crept into the suffocating quiet. He knew that the 
drought had broken that the rains had come. 

But it was another world. In this world there waa 
nothing but himself and this one woman. 

He bent lower to catch a murmur from her parted lips. 
One small hand still rested on his breast, clinging to him. 
Its hold was greater than death stronger than the threat 
of life. It drew him down with her into her peace. 



She awoke as the grey, rain-swept dawn crept sullenly 
through the open doorway. Only little by little had she 
fought back the engulfing oblivion. The shadow of the 
man standing beside her, watching her, had loomed huge 
and unreal. But now she saw his face and knew him. 

" Tristram ! " ehe whispered. 

He seemed to draw himself up to a greater height. His 
features were haggard and painted with the livid pallor 
of the light. 

" A messenger has gone to Gaya," he said. " They 
will send Smithy with a litter " 

" Tristram I'm going to live ? " 

" Yes," he said, " the danger is over." 

They looked away from one another, finding no word of 
comfort. The glamour of the night dropped from them. 
They had drunk of death, and of that intoxicated hour 



FOR THE LAST TIME 315 

nothing remained but the bitter aftermath of life an 
anti-climax, tragic and pitiful, half grotesque, a little 
sordid. 

And as two travellers who have reached what seemed 
their journey's end only to find the desert stretched before 
them, they faced the grey, unending road of their future. 



11 



CHAPTER X 

ANNE CHOOSES 

OUTWARDLY the scene was commonplace enough. 
Women, for all their supposed emotional weakness, 
have for the greater part a knack of facing the 
graver crises with a deliberate and almost prosaic calm. 
And for one woman at least in that quiet room the moment 
could not have been more bitter, more fraught with ugli- 
ness and humiliation. Yet she sat very straight, very 
composed, tearing down the sanctity of her life without 
a quiver. 

" You must think it very strange of me to come to you 
like this," she said, " but I had the feeling that, whatever 
else you would do, you would be frank with me. And I 
must know the truth. I must know where I stand. I 
must know what you are to my husband, Mrs. Barclay." 

She looked straight at her companion as she spoke. She 
was not conscious of her own insolence. Her words had 
been forged in a fortnight's agony and had cost too much 
in their utterance to allow consciousness of any hurt but 
her own. Moreover, to her the pale, delicate-faced woman 
opposite her had no claim to her consideration. She was 
" one of those others " whom the remnant of man's prime 
favourite, the Victorian vfemale, passes with gathered 
skirts. For in Anne's catalogue of humanity there were 
as yet only two varieties of her sex, the sexually virtuous 
and the sexually immoral. They were accordingly good 
women or bad women, no matter what other failings or 
qualities they might possess. Or, in a word, a woman's 
loyalty to her husband, prospective or actual, was all 
that mattered in Anne's eyes. 

Mrs. Barclay, she knew, was a bad woman. 

Sigrid regarded her thoughtfully from beneath the 
shadow of her hand. 

316 



ANNE CHOOSES 317 

" You are insulting me, Mrs. Tristram," she said, '" but 
I do not think you mean it. I think you are unhappy, 
and that is excuse enough. Won't you explain exactly 
what you mean ? " 

" I'm sure you know," Anne answered unsparingly. 
" You were always I don't know how to express it but 
it seemed to me to a great many people that you tried 

to entangle my husband before our marriage . I 

could have borne that. I knew my husband so well. In 
many ways he is careless and unconventional. He doesn't 
recognise evil easily. But now now it's different." She 
halted, fighting the tremor in her voice. It was the first 
trace of emotion that she had shown, and-, in spite of her 
prim brutality, it was curiously pathetic. " Since the 
the scandal in the temple I've felt I couldn't bear it any 
longer. People have talked they think oh, I know 
though they hide it from me and I can't do anything. 

I can't because I don't know " 

~" You don't know what ? " 

" Whether it's true." 

" Wouldn't it be best fairer to ask your husband ? " 

There was a moment's silence. The splash of the rain 
on the trees of the compound sounded dismally in 'the 
room's stillness. Sigrid shifted her position. She leant 
forward a little as though to look, ; closer into her visitor's 
face. The small white hand on her knee clenched itself. 
But Anne turned her face away from the intent, weary 
eyes. She bit her lips desperately. 

" I can't " she said. " I can't that's just it " 

A tear rolled down her cheek. She brushed it away 
flurriedly, but the knowledge of her weakness broke down 
the wall of pride and anger which she had built up in her 
loneliness. " I can't because I seat him, away. We'd 
quarrelled no, it wasn't a quarrel it was something 
worse than that and and he let me choose and I 
told him to go. I was very wicked very unjust. A 
wife's business is to forgive everything. I see that. But 
it's too late. He's gone, and now now I've no 
one " 

It was not what she had meant to say. She had meant 
to be grave and dignified and judicial, and instead she 
was crying quietly. But now that the dam was broken 
her pent up unhappiness flooded over her irresistibly. 
She had been intensely lonely. She had no great friend 



318 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

to turn to, and her instincts tended to a stern r< 
where marital relations were concerned. She had hidden, 
her growing fears and remorse under a cloak of indiffer- 
ence. Then had come the wild story of the temple, of 
Sigrid Barclay's night spent in Tristram's hut, of her 
supposed dangerous illness, of her apparently swift re- 
covery. Then Gaya had begun to whisper, and those 
whisperings had been more than she could bear. She had 
meant only to seek the truth instead she had poured out 
her overladen heart to the woman she most hated. 

Sigrid got up slowly and went to the verandah. She 
stood for a minute with her raised hand resting on the 
lintel, gazing out into the rain-soaked gardens. The moist 
air was full of fragrance and* reviving hie. When she 
turned at last there was a splash of colour in her pale 
cheeks. 

" Mrs. Tristram, send for your husband go to him. 
He is the sort of man who doesn't need to forgive." 

" I can't." 

" You love him " 

" I couldn't go to him until I knew 

" that you had nothing to forgive ? " 

Anne's silence answered. Sigrid studied her with no 
shadow of change on her own palely composed features. 

" We're two women, Mrs. Tristram," she said, " and 
that makes many impossible things possible it makes it 
possible, for instance, though we dislike one another, for 
us to be honest even about the man we both love." 

Anne lifted her wet, piteously twisted face. 

" Then it's true ? " 

" It's true that I love him." She played absently with 
one of the little silver ornaments on the table beside her, 
and then added: " It is true also that I offered myself 
to him, though I never meant to marry him threw 
myself at his head. And that he refused ine 

" He didn't care ? " 

Sigrid, glancing up, caught that look of mingled disgust 
and hope and fear, but it was the hope and fear alone 
that had significance. 

" He had asked you to marry him. He told me that 
there could only be one woman in his life and that 
woman his wife." 

" Thafis true ? " 

" I give you my word of honour." 



ANNE CHOOSES 319 

Anne sat very still. The tears were dry on her cheeks. 
She held herself rather as she had done at the be- 
ginning. 

" And then that night a fortnight ago " 

" Ah, the temple ? " She smiled faintly. " You won't 
understand that so well. You see, I am a mixture of a 
great artist and a bad woman. And artistically I have 
always realised how beautiful I should be against such a 
background. It was an artistic freak though I dare say 
the woman in me had a spiteful hope that Major Tristram 
might chance that way and realise all he had lost. Any- 
how, my heart failed me. Your husband acted the good 
Samaritan ; and that is the whole story." 

" If that is true I have done my husband a great wrong." 

" I think you have." 

Anne rose with a vague little gesture. It seemed to 
indicate barriers over which no reproof could pass. She 
was quite composed now. The strain and insolence had 
gone out of her manner, which was faintly patronising. 

"I have to thank you for your frankness. I I shan't 
ever feel quite the same to you as I have done. Indeed 
I hardly understand. You say you dislike me and 
yet you've told me all this " 

" That's because most unscrupulous people are good- 
natured," Sigrid answered with careless amusement. She 
helped herself to a cigarette, aware that by so doing she 
was living up to Anna's conception of her. " You see, it 
doesn't cost me anything. This particular incident is 
closed as far as I am concerned, and you might as well 
enjoy the benefit of the truth. I am conscious that I 
tried to hurt you, and I'm sorry." 

Anne nodded. 

" I'm sorry, too," she said primly. She went towards 
the door and there hesitated nervously. " You're you're 
leaving Gaya, are you not ? " 

" Yes, soon. My husband's business here is finished. 
It is very fortunate." 

" Yes very fortunate." 

She lifted her eyes to Sigrid, realising for an instant 
why Gaya had called her beautiful. An incredible im- 
pulse seized her, but she thrust it down in scorn and self- 
disgust. She made a little tentative movement as though 
to hold out her hand, and then turned and went out 
without a word. After all, it was the only thing to do. 



320 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Xow that her worst fears were over she saw that the sc^ne 
had been preposterous, but she was a little thrilled by 
her own action as conventional people are when they 
have ventured out of their rut. She had met 'sin on her 
own ground and worsted her. In some dim way she 
believed that she had fought for Tristram and his happi- 
ness. Her anger against him had died had been trans- 
muted into pity. She saw that behind his bigness he 
was weak and easily led. Well, it was her task to lead 
him, to protect him. She was his wife. 

She drove homewards through the steady downpour 
with an exalted consciousness of a duty done and of a 
clear road before her. She knew now what she had to do. 
It meant sacrifice because she lio longer loved, but sacri- 
fice was a glorious prerogative. In it one found peace 
and happiness. She was happier already. As she passed 
the little tin chapel her happiness clamoured for expres- 
sion, for thanksgiving. She ordered the syce to wait 
for her, and a moment later she was kneeling in her old 
place, to the right of the pathetic altar, thanking God 
for the light that had been granted her. 

At first she did not see Meredith. There were only two 
side-windows through which the grey light filtered, sinking 
drearily on to the place's bleak unloveliness, and the 
figure bowed down before the altar was in shadow and 
motionless in its utter, almost passionate prostration. But 
presently he rose slowly to his feet and turned. The 
lower part of his body was still in darkness, but his face 
was in the light, lifted to it. And to Anne, who now saw 
him, its hideousness was sublime. She saw in it the seal 
of God set on His martvr. Her intuition flashed down 
into the depths of the man's patient soul, more seared and 
scarred even than those dreadful features, and the com- 
passion which she poured out to him was other than her 
pity for her husband. It was understanding. In truth 
it was not pity, but she gave that name to it. 

He saw her. Even though the twilight separated them 
she knew he faltered. She knew the memories that had 
driven the dark blood into those scars. And she too 
remembered all her girlhood and all her girlhood's prayers 
and fancies which had been born in this poor room. She- 
was a woman now. The fancies had been foolish and 
childish. She had flung away reality for them. \Vell, 
she would take up her cross. 



ANNE CHOOSES 321 

f 

Meredith came towards her and took her outstretched 
hand. 

' When I saw you it was as though all the old times had 
come back again," he said with a grave smile. 

" I came in for quiet," she answered. " I wanted to 
to thank God for something. And now I've found you 
may I speak with you ? " 

He nodded silently and led her into the tiny side-room, 
where he changed his vestments and gave lessons to a few 
Pariah children who accepted his doctrine in exchange for 
a certain social status. He offered her the one chair, but 
she remained standing. 

" I have just seen Mrs. Barclay, Owen," she said. " I 
went to see her. It may seem a dreadful thing to have 
done and it was dreadful but I know that I did right. 
She confessed to me." 

He looked at her and then down at the papers littered 
on the table. 

" What did she confess ? " 

" That some of the wretched scandal which has associated 
her with Tristram was true. She did try to drag my hus- 
band into a horrible intrigue. But she failed. She swore 
to me, and I believe it was the truth." 

" I think Mrs. Barclay would speak the truth," he said 
meditatively. 

" She is shameless," Anne retorted with a flash of scorn ; 
" but, at least, now I know that Tristram is innocent where 
she is concerned. It is for that I am so thankful." 

Owen Meredith drew himself up from his bowed attitude. 
There was something weary and apathetic in his bearing 
which was new to her. She felt, with a stab of pain, that 
he was very ill. 

" Anne don't you love your husband ? " he asked. 

The feverish blush in her cheeks deepened. But his 
eyes were grave, even to severity, and admitted no offence. 

" Why, I must love him he is my husband." 

His twisted mouth was bitter. 

" The one thing doesn't always imply the other, Anne. 
Men and women are frail. They can't always keep the 
terrible oaths God makes them swear." 

" They can do their duty," she interrupted, <; as I shall 
do mine." 

" Duty isn't love," he said. 

She lifted her head proudly. 



322 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" It is the best oue can give after love has been killed." 

" Has Tristram killed your love, Anne ? " 

She met his stern gaze unflinchingly. 

" He has done something I can't forget. I have forgiven 
it, but I know now how wide the gulf is between us and now 
I can't ever forget it. That's all I can tell you." 

" Anne Anne we must judge gently " 

" I don't judge any one but myself," she answered. " I 
see that I have been most to blame. I made a great mistake, 
and I accept the consequences. I am going back to my 
husband." 

" Going back to him ? " he echoed heavily. 

She nodded. 

" I can do nothing here. My father's condition is un- 
changed. Dr. Martin is staying on, but he believes that the 
operation has failed. At any rate, I shall be within reach 
and my place is at my husband's side. I see that in many 
ways I could have done more to help him. Now I mean to 
share his life to stand by him. I am going to Heerut." 

" There's no place for a woman," Owen exclaimed. 

"I think there is. I am a good nurse. I could help 
him. And out there I should see all that is good in him 
oh, Owen, I must love and respect him if I can." 

She lifted her eyes to his and for the moment in which 
their gaze met they acknowledged to each other the naked, 
hopeless truth. He tunaed at last with a broken laugh. 

" I think hell itself must be paved with useless sacrifice," 
he said. 

" Oh, Owen, don't talk like that it's terrible. I can't 
bear it. Help me ! " 

" How can I help you ? " he asked almost impatiently. 

" Ride with me to Heerut this afternoon take me back 
to Tristram." 

She did not realise what she asked. She did not see 
his face. She was possessed with a restless feverish desire 
for action to start out on the road she had chosen. 

" Dear, it's not possible. The weather and the roads 
are too bad. You're not strong enough. A man told me 
this morning that the river is terribly swollen dangerous 
even " 

" I am not afraid," she said proudly. " Owen, won't 
you help me this last time ? " 

" This last time ? " 

She faltered. 



ANNE CHOOSES 323 

" Oh, I didn't mean that it was just a phrase " 

"God knows, it may be the truth of late I have felt " 

He broke off and added quickly : " Yes, of course I will 
take you if it can be done." 

" Thank you, Owen. I knew you would always help me 
if you could." 

"Always." 

Their hands met. The tears shone in her eyes, and they 
were not far from his. He bent and kissed her solemnly 
between the wet curls on her forehead. 

" My little sister in God ! " he whispered. 

" Dear Owen ! " 

And neither of them was conscious of a lie. Their 
hypocrisy was pathetic in its stern sincerity. 

That same day Owen Meredith rode with Anne to Heerut. 
The pitiless rain, the roads, so deep in mud that their 
horses had to pick their way at a walk, prolonged the fifteen- 
mile journey into the late afternoon. They scarcely spoke. 
The strain and physical discomfort kept them silent, and 
on Meredith's part there was an abstraction, a. curious 
detachment which made speech difficult. It was as though 
somewhere, somehow, a vital link between himself and life 
had been cut. Something was finished a book had been 
closed. He knew no more than that, but the vague know- 
ledge numbed even his suffering. From time to time he 
glanced at his companion, questioning her power to bear 
so much ; but her upright figure, the brilliant flush on her 
cheek, reassured him. He knew that she was setting out 
on a road of abnegation. He saw how wonderful she was.. 

They reached the new bridge and drew rein for a moment 
to watch the angry river rush past between the arches. 
The souffits were already awash. The monstrous flood of 
roaring water deafened them, and the voice of the engineer 
who had crawled out of his shanty to watch the progress 
of events came to them only in gusts. 

" Damnable you never know where you are these 
accursed rains nothing in moderation my life's work 
the lady'd better go back it's no time to cross " 

" I am going to join*my husband," Anne said slowly. 

The man grunted. 

" Better if he joined you," he grumbled. 

They reached Heerut at last and urged their weary horses 
to a canter down the deserted, evil-smelling street. Tris- 
tram's hut was empty, but there were signs of a recent habi- 
11* 



324 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

tation a pipe on the table, some instruments washing in 
a basin of carbolic, an open book. The dank nakedness 
of the place drove Meredith out of his stupor. 

" Anne, is it wise hadn't you better come back you're 
not strong enough to bear all this privation " 

She shook her head with a faint smile. 

" I'm not strong enough to ride back. Besides, I wouldn't. 
I've set out, and I'm going on." 

He placed her saddle-bags out of reach of the rain which 
oozed in through the open doorway. He knew now that 
he had acquiesced in a reckless, ill-judged adventure, but a 
spirit of weary fatalism silenced him. Perhaps good would 
come of it a real and lasting reconciliation. He thought 
of that night in this very place when he had intervened 
and his whole being winced under the lash of his self- 
contempt. He would not intervene again. 

" So it's good-bye, Anne." 

" Good-bye, Owen and thank you." 

Their hands met. He did not kiss her. Though he did 
not own to it, the presence of Tristram was strong in that 
drear place, and his own passion more vivid, less subdued 
by resignation than he had believed. 

"God bless you, Anne I I shall pray for you 
always." 

" And I for you." 

Such was their leave-taking. There was in it an element 
of finality which neither analysed nor understood. When 
the door had closed on him an instant's pang of fear and 
yearning forced his name from her lips, but he did not hear 
and she did not call again. She sat down, looking about 
her. Now that she was alone she knew that she was very 
tired so tired that even rest offered rjo relief. At other 
times, after a long day in the saddle, the thought of slrrp 
had been like a draught of fresh water to a thirsty man, 
but now it seemed hideously afar off almost unthinkable. 
Instead her weariness goaded her to movement, whilst her 
brain was numb. It was as though something mysterious 
was working up inside her physical being, gathering to- 
gether for some unknown crisis. 

She tried to think to visualise things. She tried to 
picture Tristram's entry and the scene between them. 
She had gone over it so many times, and now it' eluded her. 
She tried to remember what her husband was like, but 
could not: A little prayer for strength and guidance came 



ANNE CHOOSES 325 

into her mind, but after the first words she forgot that she 
was praying. In despair she drove herself to think of 
Sigrid in this place, of Sigrid in her husband's arms ; but 
the picture left her numb and indifferent. Her mind rode 
helpless on a great shoreless sea of exhaustion. Nothing 
mattered but her body, and its rising suffering. 

Her hands and face burnt. The room was stifling. She 
got up uncertainly to open the door, but on the way remem- 
bered her wet things aad began to unpack the saddle-bags. 
In the midst of it she fancied she heard .Tristram's step 
and a new desire obtruded itself on her masterless thoughts. 
She had meant to get a meal ready for him to make the 
place homely to welcome him as his wife, his comrade. 
She swayed as she drew herself up. She began aimlessly 
to clear the table 

Half an hour later, when Tristram returned, he found his 
supper waiting for him and his wife unconscious on the 
ground. 

The shock, coming as a climax to a fruitless day of labour 
among men and women who had once loved him and now 
shrank from his very shadow, did not hinder prompt action . 
He gathered her up tenderly and laid her on his bed. Her 
clothes were wringing wet, but the fever of her body burnt 
through them, and, knowing what Meredith did not know, 
he cursed with an anger inspired by pity. He forced a little 
brandy between her lips, and he was beginning to remove 
her soaking riding-skirt when her eyes opened. 

"Tris what's happened?. Did I faint? oh, how 
stupid of me don't bother I can manage I shall be all 
right in a minute ' 

"You must lie still," he said impatiently. "Why did 
you come ? It was madness. If you had wanted me you 
could have sent for me. You've made yourself ill." 

"I don't know I wanted She tried desperately 

to think, to recall all her plans and motives. They slipped 
through her fingers. And meanwhile he was tending her 
skilfully, tenderly. He scarcely heeded her broken mutter- 
ing. Suddenly she stretched out her hand and drew him 
to her. 

" Tris, I know what it was I wanted to come to you 
and tell you that thatn-I I forgive I was harsh 
and cruel I misjudged. Mrs. Barclay told me how 
loyal you had been. I'll stand by you I'm your wife 
it's my duty I want to do what's right I'llhelp you 



326 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

here I " Then her body overwhelmed her. It threw 

her soul to the earth, whining and whimpering, " Oh, Tris, 
Tris, I'm in such awful pain such awful pain." 

"I know," he answered hoarsely, "my poor little 
Anne " 

Her eyes turned to his. They cleared for an instant. 

" Trig you don't think " 

" Dear, I'm afraid so. We've got to do the best we can. 
You mustn't be frightened " 

She began to cry helplessly. Then the pain dried even 
her tears. She clung to him in a frenzy of agony. 

" Oh, Tris Tris help me ' 

She passed at last into a merciful unconsciousness. Not 
once during that night did she regain knowledge of his 
presence and yet he knew that even in that mental dark- 
ness she suffered as only women are doomed to suffer. 
Watching her, alleviating where he could, he gave no 
thought to the past or future, no thought to the other 
woman who had lain in the self-same place, battling with 
the self-same enemy. He did not ask himself whether, had 
this piteous offer of forgiveness been made ki the crisis of 
their lives, it would have stemmed the torrent of events, 
whether indeed there is any power which can check the 
course of character and the heart's will. Nothing of all 
that mattered. Nothing but this pitiful suffering. He saw 
Anne only in her girlish youth and innocence and ignorance. 
He saw her as a child ground between life and her own 
child's beliefs and ideals. She claimed him by the great 
right of pain. 

Her poor fevered little hand rested in his. Even in 
her unconsciousness she clung to him as though his touch 
soothed her. But in her delirium she called on Owen 
called on him incessantly 

And in the early hours of the morning her hope was 
taken from her. 

Owen Meredith reached the river shortly before night- 
fall. The muffled roar of the water sounded louder and 
nearer than before. As he crossed the bridge he could 
feel the steel girders quivering under the strain ; he could 
see the yellowish-greyish mass racing from under his feet 
into the gloom of the coming night. It conveyed nothing 
to him. He was thinking of Anne pra} T ing for her with 
a dull, stupid persistence. 



ANNE CHOOSES 327 

The engineer, encased in waterproof, met him with a 
torrent of grim abuse. 

" What we poor devils have to put up with ! If this 
blessed thing doesn't hold I'm dished. Bah India ! 
What the dickens are we doing in this galere ? The very 
elements are against us." He shook himself like a wet 
dog. " Well, you'd better hurry. You'll catch up that 
fat monkey of a Rajah. He's in a towering rage about 
something somebody been rude to his Allmightiness. 
You'd better soothe him down. There's trouble enough 
going 

Meredith rode on. He did not want to catch up with 
Rasaldu. He was still thinking of Anne when the Rajah, 
wet through and mounted on a limping English thorough- 
bred; loomed up like a ghost in the rain-soaked twilight. 
He greeted Meredith much as the engineer had done. 

" This rotten climate ! Look what a mess I'm in. 
I've just come from Heerut incog, you know. Wanted 
to do the poor beggars a good turn and they threw stones 
at me they they insulted me. It's that damned black- 
guard Barclay. He ought to have been shot. You 
English are getting too devilish delicate. One's got to 
hit, and hit hard." He rambled on furiously. Meredith 
understood that Rasaldu, without escort, after the fashion 
of English royalties on their own domains, had sought to 
act the part of benefactor in Heerut and had been re- 
pulsed. At another time the incident might have caused 
Meredith a faint amusement, but now he could feel no- 
thing. The desolation of rain and grey, lightless sky 
pressed down upon him like a stupefying burden. He 
went on thinking of Anne, wondering dully how it was he 
knew so well that he would never see her again. He 
thought of Tristram and pitied him. In that hour he 
forgot creed and principle. He saw, perhaps for the first 
time, humanity as one in suffering. 

Two beggars slunk through the mud towards him. 
They were almost naked. The water ran in streams off 
their glistening brown skins and matted their beards into 
black masks. They came up, one to Meredith, one to 
the Rajah, whining for alms. Meredith threw his man a 
coin. He did it mechanically. The Rajah burst into a 
fresh stream of curses. He was very wet very angry. 
He had been called " swineherd " by his own people and 
the name rankled like a poisoned dart in his quivering 



328 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

flesh. He spurred his horse at the whimpering mendi- 
cant. 

" Get out of my way, you vermin " 

Something happened. Meredith, still weighed down by 
his own thoughts, was only conscious of a coining change. 
He half turned to his companion, and as he did so one 
of the natives sprang past him. It was the leap of a tiger, 
straight at Rasaldu's throat. A gleam of white light 
streaked through the greyness a muffled scream ended 
suddenly by a choking, sickening groan. 

Rasa Id u pitched headlong from the saddle. His foot 
caught in the stirrup. The startled animal swung round 
and bolted, dragging its rider face -down wards through 
the mud a mere inanimate, shapeless bundle. 

So much Meredith saw. He tried to think to act. 
But he was like a sleeper waking slowly too slowly 
from a narcotic. Instinctively he turned to meet his 
own danger. He never saw it. It came noiselessly and 
quite painlessly. It was like a stupendous stroke of light- 
ning severing the earth under his feet. It sent him spin- 
ning through aeons of memory and feeling into nothing. 



CHAPTER XI 

FREEDOM 

A COVERED bullock-wagon which for the last two 
hours had been struggling with the morass leading 
up from the valley came to a standstill outside the 
gates of the Barclays' compound. The driver lifted a flap 
of the canvas covering, and a woman crawled out and 
clambered stiffly to the ground. She stood for a moment 
in the steam of the panting and sweating bullocks count- 
ing money into the brown calloused palm extended to 
her in greedy persistence. 

" No, I shan't want you going back," she said, in 
answer to his half diffident, half insolent question. " I've 
come to stop." She gave a little, high-pitched laugh, 
and, gathering up her untidy skirts, went through the open 
gates. 

A syce, holding a lady's saddle-horse, waited at the 
bottom of the verandah steps. He stared stolidly at the 
intruder. He did not know her, and he knew every one 
in Gaya. He had also the unerring instinct of his race 
and class which discounted the superficial Europeanism 
of her dress and its common gaudiness. He knew her for 
what she was, and made a gesture of detention as, she 
passed. 

"What you want, missy?" he asked in English, and 
with a mocking flash of his white teeth. " Missy not go 
in there." 

She turned her head. The expression on her dark, 
mobile features was composite of dignity and nervous- 
ness. 

" I want Barclay Sahib," she said. " Is he here ? " 

" Meester Barclay gone away," the man retorted, using 
the English prefix deliberately. "Meester Barclay gone 
away many weeks." 

329 



330 TRISTRAM SAHIB 



" Where has he gone ? " 

" Not know, missy." 

She stood irresolute, looking at the saddled horse. At 
first it seemed to convey no significance to her. Then 
suddenly she flushed up. 

" I must see some one who does know," she explained. 
" Who lives here ? " 

" The Mem-Sahib, missy." 

" Who is the Mem-Sahib,? " 

The syce made no answer. He stroked the velvet nose 
of his charge and the stranger became aware from his 
attitude that they were no longer alone. She turned 
sharply > and the woman standing at the head of the steps 
immediately behind her returned her stare with a faint 
smile. 

" Do you want Mr. Barclay ? " she asked quietly. 

" Yes, I do." The Eurasian hesitated. The fair-haired, 
fragile-looking woman in the dark riding-habit seemed to 
frighten her. 

" I've come all the way from Calcutta," she stammered. 

" That's a long way. I'm sorry Mr. Barclay is away 
has been away for many weeks. I don't even know 
where he is. If you would tell me your name '' 

The woman caught her breath audibly. Her dark, 
uneasy eyes had a smouldering look in them a look 
that was somehow primitive in its sombre, gathering 
suspicion. 

" My name's Barclay Marie Barclay," she flashed out. 

" Ah, Mr. Barclay's sister ? " 

"No, his wife." She flung the words down with the 
defiance of an animal that is afraid of its own temerity. 
Her head, with its over-adorned hat, was thrown back 
truculently, but her lips quivered. " I'm his wife," she 
repeated. 

Sigrid had been pale when she came out. Now a faint, 
delicate colour tinged her cheeks, bringing life and energy 
to her listless transparency. She put her ungloved hand 
to her face with a little familiar gesture of surprise and 
thought but to Marie Barclay it expressed mockery. 

" It's true," she burst out. " I can prove it 

"I'm sure you can only not here. It's so wet. 
Purga, you can walk Astora for a little. Won't you come 
in Mrs. Barclay ? " 

She gave her visitor no opportunity to answer, but 



FREEDOM 331 

led the way to the library where Mrs. Smithers, with 
ruffled grey hair and a face of care and perpetual per- 
plexity, sat beneath the marble Venus knitting a pair of 
mittens which no human being was ever likely to wear. 

" Smithy, this lady has come all the way from Calcutta. 
She's Mrs. Barclay Jim's wife." 

Mrs. Smithers let the mittens drop into her lap, but she 
gave no other sign of consternation. She was in the 
state of a person who has been subjected to a vigorous 
course of electric treatment and has become impervious to 
shocks. 

" Lawks amercy ! " she exclaimed wearily. " Well, 
and I'm not surprised. It's not the last thing I expected 
to hear. I warrant there's a good few of 'em about the 
country if we only knew." 

"But this is true, Smithy I'm sure it is, isn't it?" 
She turned, with a quick gracious movement to the woman 
at her side, but for a moment the latter did not answer. 
Her full, rather pretty mouth, was desperately closed to 
hide its trembling. Her hands were interlocked in front 
of her. A strand of straight black hair straggled untidily 
across her face, and she tried to toss it back with an up- 
ward jerk of her head. It was as though she dared not 
unclasp her hands. 

"Yes, it's true," she said at last. "I can prove it. 
We were married years ago in Calcutta. He's kept it 
quiet I know he was ashamed. He thought I'd pull 
him back. He wanted to get on so badly and I put up 
with it. I'd I'd have put up with anything. He said 
he'd send for me afterwards but he never did. I 
hadn't heard from him for weeks. He didn't send any 
money there was hardly any left just enough to bring 

me here " she looked from one woman to another, 

and there was a tortured, hunted look in her eyes that 
made her violent defiance pitiable. " I didn't mean to 
tell he made me promise but I've been So unhappy 
so desperate when I found he'd gone and and you 
here, I lost my head I couldn't bear it any longer I 
couldn't " 

She dropped down into the chair nearest her, her face 
buried in her hands, crying wildly. 

" Scoundrel ! " Mrs. Smithers ejaculated on the same 
note of confirmed conviction. 

Sigrid stood looking down at the bowed, shaking shoul- 



332 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

ders. Her eyes were pitying, but her mouth was a little 
wry, almost whimsical. 

" You were quite right to tell us," she said. " It's made 
a great many things clear. You needn't be frightened. 
I have an idea your husband meant you to come and 
that he will be glad. I dare say that was why he didn't 
write " 

Mrs. Barclay lifted her head, brushing the tears from 
her wet cheeks. Her hat had slipped a little to one 
side, giving her a look of grotesque and distraught 
violence. 

" What are you doing here ? " she asked insolently. 
" Who are you ? " 

" Nobody in particular an interloper it seems." 

" Oh, I know better than that ! " The dark face 
quivered into a sneer. " I know who you are. You're 
the white woman he was after. I guessed right enough. 
He wanted an Englishwoman." She sprang suddenly to 
her feet with an almost threatening gesture. " But it was 
me he loved me he married. He didn't care for you 
don't you flatter yourself he wanted you just to get 
even just to hurt as he'd been hurt. You're nothing 
but a " 

She broke off. Sigrid had not moved or spoken, but 
there was that in the still white face which checked the 
torrent of savage insult. Mrs. Smithers got up. She 
rolled the mittens into a neat ball. 

" I'm an old woman," she said, " and I hate violence. 
But just you mind what you're saying, Mrs. Barclay 

Sigrid checked her with a gesture. 

" Mrs. Barclay is quite right," she said calmly. " I 
think she understands her husband very well. She is 
only mistaken in supposing I did not understand too. I 
did not know that he was married, but that is neither 
here nor there. I did know that I was merely a means 
to an end as he was to me. Now that's all finished and 
done with." She laughed a little. "Do you know, Mr*. 
Barclay, you are the second woman in twenty-four hours 
who has accused me of trying to steal her husband, and, 
heaven knows, in this instance, it isn't true." 

Marie Barclay stared at her in sullen silence. Her 
passion had gone down under fatigue and a natural racial 
apathy. She had struck with all the strength she pos- 
sessed, and now came the reaction of helpless tears. 



FREEDOM 333 

" 1 don't know what to do," she said brokenly. " I've 
nowhere to go no one to help me." 

" We're going to help you," Sigrid answered. She 
came and laid a gentle, controlling hand on the -other's 
arm. " You mustn't break down. There's nothing to be 
afraid of. You don't know it, but you've done me a 
great service. And now it's my turn. You'll stay here. 
It's your home everything in it is yours. There's money 
enough to keep you going till he comes back. And he 
will come back. He'll be glad to find you here we were 
nothing to one another. Doesn't that make you happy ? " 

Her tone was so gay, so assured that the brimming 
eyes lifted to hers lost their suspicion and hatred. 

" I don't know I don't understand and you " 

" I shall clear out. I've no right here. We'll be your 
'guests for to-night and we can talk things over. Mean- 
time, Mrs. Smithers will give you tea, and I'll go for a last 
ride on your horse. I want fresh air and a little quiet. 
You don't mind ? " 

The full lips quivered resentfully. 

" You're making fun of me ' 

" No I'm in dead earnest. I've been an intruder and 
an unwilling thief, and now I return my ill-gotten gains. 
Smithy, take care of her till I come back. And no vio- 
lence ! " 

Mrs. Smithers paid 110 heed to the injunction. She was 
trembling in every limb as she followed the quickly moving 
figure to the verandah steps. She clutched Sigrid's hands. 
Her dim old eyes were full of a great dread. 

" Sigrid my dearest what are you going to do ? " 

" Do ? Nothing rash, Smithy. Did you think I 

might '- ? Don't you see how good it is ? I'm free. 

I'm Sigrid Fersen I haven't got to fight daily, hourly, 
for my integrity I'm free." Sh& drew in a deep joyous 
breath of the fresh, rain-soaked air. Her eyes shone under 
the fine, untroubled brows. " I'm going home with you to 
England, Smithy. I'm going to live in the little suburban 
house and give dancing lessons to the large surburban feet. 
And in my free moments I shall play Beethoven and 
Wagner and Chopin on an extravagantly fine Bechstein. 
For I've learnt that one can play noble music anywhere. 
That's a great lesson, Smithy." She smiled tenderly. 
" And I shall live on your savings, Smithy. That'll make 
you happy, won't it ? " 



334 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" Oh, my dear " 

" I know. Such queer things make women happy." 
She grew grave for an instant. "And perhaps I shall live 
to be very old, as Tristram said I might. I may crow so 
much stronger I shall outlive you, Smithy, ana every 
one who ever cared for me. But I'm not going to funk 
it now. I shall play my music to the very end." 

Mrs. Smithers made no answer. She could not have 
answered, for the dimness had crept into her throat and 
choked her. She lifted the little hand clasped in hers and 
kissed it. 

Thus Sigrid Fersen rode down the steep, mud-choked 
road towards the valley. She told herself that it was 
for the last time. And because each ' last time ' in life 
is a bridge-crossing into a new and trackless country 
she looked back along the old road, and her thoughts 
lingered by the high landmarks by which she would never 
pass again. High up against the horizon a mountain-peak 
glowed in the warm splendour of this farewell. On its 
topmost crag she had dwelt a little and alone. She saw 
the rough and ruthless descent into the world of men, the 
winding road over strange countries, the always-seeking of 
those two years, and there on the verge of an abyss the 
revelation of something as lofty, as splendid as all that she 
had left behind her. At first she had drawn back. She 
kad even smiled a little at the thought that her feet should 
tread so desperate a path. But in the end she had gone 
on down into the depths and through a suffocating evil 
darkness and up again at last to the further summit. And 
had it been worth it worth the effort, the sheer, physical 
effort, the pitiless drain upon soul and body, the inevitable 
loneliness ? She knew her answer. She saw before her 
the country to which her stern enterprise had led her. She 
saw it flat and barren and wind-swept, its sparse trees 
bowed before the solitary storms. She saw that it had its 
own grandeur. There was a sweet taste in the wind ; and 
the rough earth carried many flowers on its bosom, and they 
had a fragrance more delicate than all the rich exotic 
blossoms which had once been dear to her. She welcomed 
the sweet winds and the great limitless horizons. She 
stretched out her arms to the blustering storm. She was 
free. Her freedom was not of the mountain crags, but of 
the great undulating plains where men pass their daily life. 
And she had ceased to be alone. Somewhere on that vast 



FREEDOM 335 

expanse a fellow traveller pressed on his way, often erring, 
often misled, but still with head erect, eyes fixed on the 
down-going sun which was their common goal. She saw 
him big and careless and unkempt with strays and vaga- 
bonds crowded at his heels. She saw the light on his face, 
and knew that he too was conscious of their comradeship. 
It did not matter that in that country over which they 
travelled they would not meet again. They had met 
once. God Himself, if He existed apart from His creation, 
could not blot out that knowledge or His own decree by 
which the separate paths of men meet at the end. 

Thus Sigrid Fersen rode out of Gaya. Her horse slipped 
and fretted over the treacherous descent, but her hand was 
as strong and steady as her thought. She had the quality 
common to all vitally living things the love of physical, 
friendly warfare with the elements. She lifted her glow- 
ing face to the warm rain. She felt at peace and happy. 
She could look with clear eyes into the future. Tristram 
had said that with care she might live to be very old. The 
thought had no terrors for her now. 

Between dreams and realities she left Gaya floating in 
the grey mists behind her. The solitude and wide stretch 
of the plain soothed her and gave her a sense of release from 
a cramping prison. She began to deal practically with the 
coming years even, with a faint smile at the corners of 
her mouth, to furnish the little suburban house, to arrange 
her days. 

And then, in the midst of her planning, her horse jerked 
to a quivering standstill. She leant forward in her saddle, 
frowning through the veil of rain, and saw that something 
lay across her road something black, and huddled and 
shapeless. She tried to urge the frightened animal for- 
ward ; then something definite checked her held her in 
sick, motionless horror. It was a white patch the shape 
of a man's hand, the fingers clawed into the mud. 

A minute later she had managed to dismount. She knelt 
down by the crumpled body, and, exerting all her strength, 
lifted it. It was so caked and stiffened with mire and blood 
that it remained upright, kneeling grotesquely, leaning 
against her. The Disfigured features, made more hideous 
by their mud-smeared agony, were close to her own. She 
believed him dead. The horror of him, kneeling there, 
leering at her, overcame her. She let him sink back and 
then only saw that he still lived. His eyes were open. 



336 TRIgTRAM SAHIB 

They were already glazed and could not have seen her, but 
an instinct, kindling for the last time, recognised her 
presence. 

" Tristram Heerut warn Tristram warn 

His mouth fell open. His gaze became fixed under the 
half-sunk lids. , It was finished. 

Sigrid Ferseii rose to her feet. She was not conscious 
now of fear or hesitation, she walked forward a few paces, 
tracing the smeared track of Meredith's body back to a 
confusion of hoof- prints in the thick mud. There had 
been a struggle, and Meredith had had strength enough to 
crawl a few feet she did not know that each foot had 
represented hours and the triumph of the man's will over 
agony and unconsciousness, but she knew what he had 
tried to do. 

" Warn Tristram ! " 

It was a call to her old, unbroken fearlessness, to the 
eager, adventuring blood and the new faith. Gaya and 
prudence and safety lay behind her ; but what was Gaya 
to her, what had prudence or safety ever mattered to her ? 
Before her lay the swollen river and sinister, uncompre- 
hended danger. 

She was going forward. 

She caught her horse by the bridle. It was no easy task 
to mount from that slippery road, but she had in that hour 
an unconquerable energy and resolve. It was done at 
last. She settled herself firmly in the saddle, her hands 
on the reins were flexible and strong as steel. Through 
the splashing mire and rain she rode towards Heerut. 

She reached the river- bank. The door of the engineer's 
shanty stood open and one glance showed her that the 
place was deserted. She rode over the bridge. The Mater 
slid across the roadway with an ugly, slopping gurgle ; its 
deeper voice thundered beneath among the shaken arches. 

On the farther bank she drew rein for an instant. Amidst 
the rush of the river it seemed to her that another .sound 
had reached her. It was vague and indefinite, and yet 
unmistakably separate from all else. It was as though 
close to her, and yet hidden beneath the water, something 
monstrous and living groaned in the Acony of dismember- 
ment. 

" Warn Tristram ! " 

She rode on towards Heerut. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE MEETING OF THE WAYS 

THEY had come from all the ends of the Province, 
secretly and one by one from the towns, and in 
whole companies from the villages. It was for them 
only another pilgrimage. They brought with them the 
same child-like faith, the same dun, passionless hopes, the 
same fatalism. And behind those simple things there was 
the same incalculable force awaiting the spark which 
should fire them to a ferocious heroism or headlong panic. 

They came together in the broad curve of plain where 
the Ganges twisted in a horse-shoe towards the foot of 
Gaya's hills. To the west, within hah* a mile of the encamp- 
ment, the black impregnable barrier of the jungle followed 
the river's course past the bridge-head and the temple, 
forming lower down a crescent around the little plateau 
on which Heerut lay huddled. 

There were close on two thousand of them, men of all 
ages, all castes. They carried weapons, but of a strange 
and varied nature. Old army rifles, an ancient sword," 
the deadly kukri, sometimes no more than a rusty bayonet, 
stolen or bought from some drunken defaulter. They 
themselves were as heterogeneous. They herded together 
without order or discipline. The rain poured down upon 
them ceaselessly, saturating their scanty clothing so that 
it clung to their lean bodies like creased and dirty skins. 
Here and there the saffron robe proclaimed the Saddhu, 
and there were priests, haughty, arrogant-featured men, 
who stood aloof, as though the matter scarcely concerned 
tjiem. Yet it was they who had worked secretly and 
cunningly in the towns and villages. It was their in- 
fallibility which had welded these strange, inco.-ordinate 
atoms into a weapon. For, undisciplined, ill-armed, and 
dejected though they seemed, though they came straight 

337 



338 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

from their fields and the enervating atmosphere of the 
bazaars, these two thousand men were still fighters. In 
the old days their fathers had scorned the plough and had 
lived and died by the sword. They had fought for the old 
Rajah and gone with him into exile and ended their adver- 
sity in the wildernesses. Some of that fighting blood was 
in the veins of these, their descendants, and some of that 
stern tradition lay smouldering beneath the veneer of peace 
which the British Raj had forced upon them. 

But of all this, Barclay, riding at Ayeshi's side down the 
irregular front of this strange army, saw nothing. To 
hun they were a sorry, pitiable crew, foredoomed to 
disaster. He knew now, if he had not always known, the 
futile madnessof the enterprise on which they were launched, 
he with them. The brief illusion which he had nourished 
that night in the temple had gone. Though he had flung 
himself into this cause with all his wealth, all his power, 
he saw it to be lost. The shadow of the future was on these 
upturned stoic faces, on Ayeshi, and on himself. Yet he 
would not have turned back nor changed the course of 
events. A sombre triumph and satisfaction glowed through 
his foreknowledge. 

He had found his people. He belonged to them. In the 
end that was coming he would not be alone. His blood 
would mingle with theirs. And with them those others 
would be swept away those others who had rejected him.. 

He turned his haggard, moody eyes towards distant 
Gaya and laughed. Even now he was a little theatrical. 
He wore the native dress, and it was like a masquerade. 
All that was English in him stood out the more promin- 
ently. The very priests "who had admitted him to their 
caste shrank from his shadow, and quick, dark glances of 
suspicion followed him as he rode at Ayeshi's side. Vahana, 
the Saddhu, clung to his stirrup-leather. He was like a 
mocking spirit of evil, noiseless and remorseless. Once 
Barclay had tried to swing him off by a quick turn of his 
horse, but the old withered figure had leapt with him with 
the agility of a tiger. Afterwards Vahana had lifted his 
face to Barclay, showing his teeth in a mirthless grin of 
understanding. 

Thereafter Barclay made no effort to free himself. But 
ho had become afraid afraid of something other than the 
end. 

Ayeshi rode to the farther end of the roughly formed 



THE MEETING OF THE WAYS 339 

square. Beyond the jewelled turban and the ancient sword 
at his waist, he wore no insignia of his rank, and even his 
knightly seat on the thorough-bred Arab could not wholly 
atone to his followers for this lack of outward splendour. 
They had expected something other something resplen- 
dent, a gorgeous representative of the millennium that was 
coming a god, an avatar. And he was only a boy, with 
wasted features and restless, unhappy eyes. Yet they 
greeted him as their lord. Perhaps even in their minds 
was the knowledge that their lives were bound up with his, 
that there was no turning back either for him or them. 

A Brahmin and a native under-officer, still in uniform 
though without his badges, came out of the ranks to meet 
him, and for a few minutes they spoke together in an under- 
tone. Barclay scarcely listened. He was watching with 
cynical intentness the play of the priest's astute features, 
the deferential courtly movements, the keen flashes of the 
cruel eyes. In contrast, the soldier seemed brutal and 
aggressive. His face was pock-marked and sodden with 
vice, but he was a strong man more vital in that moment 
even than Ayeshi. 

Between Barclay and these two men Ayeshi was 
the shuttlecock the toy and instrument with which each 
sought to attain his own petty ends of vengeance and 
power. For a moment Barclay could have pitied him as 
he sat there, reining in his restive Arab with a master's 
hand, so passionatel} 7 in earnest, so deeply shaken by pre- 
monition. 

" They will fight, Pugra ? " he asked repeatedly. 
" They will keep faith with us ? " 

The soldier grinned significantly. 

" They have sworn it, lord. There is no cause for them 
to break their oath. It is a simple matter. In an hour it 
will be finished. Heera Singh leads them. He is a good 
soldier. His brother was shot a year ago. He will not 
fail." 

" And afterwards ? " 

" We shall join forces with them." 

" And after that ? " 

The soldier and the priest exchanged a quick glance of 
interrogation. But the question had rung with an urgent 
appeal not to be denied. The Brahmin drew a step nearer, 
taking the answer upon himself. 

"After that the great cities will follow. In Calcutta 



340 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

and Bombay they do but await the signal. Is it not 
BO ? " 

" That is what they told me." Ayeshi passed his hand 
nervously over his Sorehead. " They swore to me that 
they were ready. I was to be the torch which should light 
India " 

" Surely, then, it will be so, lord." 

Ayeshi made no answer. He seemed to sink into a fit of 
brooding, his eyes fixed in the direction of Gaya. Barclay, 
who had not ceased to watch him, urged his horse nearer. 

" Of what are you afraid, Rajah 1 " he asked softly in 
English, adding with a flash of malice : " Isn't death the 
worst that can happen to us ? " 

The echo of the grandiloquent phrase stung Ayeshi to 
a haughty gesture. 

" I do not fear death." 

" Whom then ? Rasaldu ? Rasaldu is dead. In a few 
hours there will be no white men left in your kingdom 

" I know. It is not that. It is for these men my 
people. They trust me. They hope great things. If I 
should fail " 

" You will not fail, Rajah. You have the right to call 
upon them. You are their lord." 

Ayeshi glanced up swiftly. 

" And if I were not if it proved a mistake sometimes 
I am afraid " 

Barclay shrugged his shoulders. He was growing 
impatient. The merciless rain began to chill his blood. 
The roar of the river beat like the incessant thud of a 
hammer on his ears. 

" What does it all matter ? " he muttered. " If only 
this infernal rain would stop ! It's dangerous. If the 
water overflows on the high ground up by Bjura we shall 
have to swim for it. That's what matters." 

But suddenly Ayeshi bent down from his saddle and laid 
his hand on Vahana's shoulder. 

" You promised.! " he said, in a tense undertone. " You 
promised that to-day you would speak that you would 
give me proofs to show my people. Now keep your promise 
to me. Vahana justify me." 

The fakir lifted his eyes to Ayeshi. His lips moved, 
but no sound came from them. He shrank back against 
Barclay's knee, cowering as from a blow. But his expres- 
sion was triumphantly evil. 



THE MEETING OF THE WAYS 341 



And Barclay, looking into Ayeshi's stricken face, came 
to a bitter understanding. Not only this ,boy, but all of 
them, were so many instruments in a master-hand. Their 
hates and ambitions had been woven skilfully, into the 
greater pattern of a patient, insatiable vengeance. They 
were pawns in Vahana's game. TJiey would be gjwept from 
the board. Vahana would go on to his own end. 

Before this self -same knowledge Ayeshi had faltered. 
Now he drew himself up in the saddle. 

"Rasaldu is dead," he said quietly, yet with despair, 
" and Sahib Meredith and others others. Justify me ! " 

And to that final, irrepressible cry of anguish Vahana 
answered. His unaccustomed tongue wrestled with the 
words, and formed them slowly and thickly. They fell 
like blows. 

" The Rajah had no son/' he said. 

Then suddenly he laughed. In that final moment the 
brain, corroded with hatred, broke down beneath its 
accumulated burden. The maniacal merriment rang out 
above the thunder of racing water, it pealed on till it 
dominated every other sound. As Ayeshi turned with 
lifted hand to strike, it subsided hideously into a broken 
cackle. Still clinging to Barclay's stirrup, Vahana dropped 
to his knees. What possessed Barclay in that moment he 
could not have told. He stretched out his arm over the 
cowering figure, shielding the thing he feared. 

" No, no, Ayeshi it's too late. It doesn't matter who 
or what you are. You've got to go on with it. You can't 
leave us in'the lurch. There's been blood shed enough " 

'Ayeshi's hand sank limply to his side. His lips were 
quivering. 

" Rasaldu is dead," he repeated. " Rasaldu the swine- 
herd had more right than I and the Sahibs who have 
done me no wrong " 

Barclay interrupted him with a curse. Was this last 
catastrophe of his life to end as the others had done, in a 
travesty in a Gilbertian fiasco ? Was he to be held up to 
ridicule before those cool, insolent men and women 
ludicrous and ineffectual even in his death ? 

"For God's sake pull yourself together, Ayeshi!" he 
said imperatively. " What does it matter whether you 
are wronged or not ? You are the leader. Chance has 
made you the deliverer of your people. Act like a man. 
Save your country set us free " He laid his hand 



342 TRISTRAM SAHIB 



on his breast with a dramatic gesture. " I ask it of you 
I. who have suffered at their hands. Be strong, Ayeshi. 
Give us our freedom." 

But Ayeshi seemed not to listen. His frowning eyes 
were fixed in front of him, and suddenly he pointed. Bar- 
clay turned in his saddje. At first the spectacle that 
met him seemed no more than curious. The belt of high 
grass which separated them from the river had parted, 
and a young tigress stood in the opening. She seemed 
wholly unconscious of the massed enemy before her. She 
stood there lashing her tail, her velvet flanks heaving with 
recent hard effort, her fine head lifted in an attitude of 
listening. For an instant she remained thus. No hand 
was raised against her. Ayeshi and his followers watched 
her in motionless, superstitious silence. Even Barclay 
felt himself incapable of action. It was as though the 
apparition had for them a deeper, as yet unread signifi- 
cance. 

With a low growl, not of anger but of fear, the beautiful 
animal trotted with long, lopping strides between Ayeshi 
and the herded crowd of tensely watching natives. No 
sound was uttered until the lean, striped body had vanished. 
Then a cry went up at first isolated then swelling to a 
shout : 

" An omen an omen ! " 

" Vishnu has spdken ! " 

" The gods are against us ! " 

" The flood the flood ! " 

The last came in a scream. It bore the other cries down 
into an instant's stupefied silence. The massed square of 
humanity which had tossed and surged in a gathering storm 
of panic grew still. 

Barclay lifted himself in his stirrups. He could see 
nothing. The rain blinded him. Yet his ears, alert now, 
caught a distant ominous boom. 

" I believe it's true the animal was bolting for her 
life the water must have burst its banks at Bjura if it 
has, it's coming twenty miles an hour we've got to run 
for high ground, Ayeshi." 

The- Hindu shrugged his shoulders. 

" There is no high ground " 

Vahana roused himself from the mud where he had 
remained in an attitude of apparent stupor. A demoniac 
energy blazed in the mad eyes. 



THE MEETING OF THE WAYS 343 

"There is a way past Heerut I will show you only 
let me ride with you, Sahib Barclay " 

The Eurasian nodded. He no longer appealed to Ayeshi, 
who was sunk in an apathy of despair. He raised himself 
again in the saddle. 

" There is a way to safety ! " he shouted. " Vahana, the 
Holy Man, will lead us the gods have sent a warning the 
gods are with us follow ! " 

He Mf ted Vahana into the saddle behind him and swung 
his horse round towards Heerut. Ayeshi lingered ; Bar- 
clay passed him with a gesture of contempt. The control 
was in his hands now. It was for him to act to retrieve 
disaster. He had become the leader the leader of his 
people. He heard the rush of feet behind him the sound 
thrilled through his blood in a storm of exultation. 

" Follow me ! " he shouted. " I will lead you." 

They followed. They swept Ayeshi into their maelstrom 
and carried him with them, but they too had ceased to heed 
him. Nor did he try to regain his hold. The right to 
command even to resist had gone. ' He was no longer 
Rajah exiled and disinherited, yet still lord of his destiny. 
He was Ayeshi, the village story-teller, the servant of 
Tristram Sahib, the dreamer bereft of his dreams. He 
would have been glad to meet the end. 

But the people he had betrayed bore him in their midst, 
as they fled before the oncoming waters. 

Tristram heard only the deepening voice of the river, 
the rain splashing on the roof and the rush and swirl of 
the water as it tore through the village gutters. Even 
these things, though they reached his hearing, scarcely 
touched his consciousness. They walled him in. They 
formed a sombre background for his wife's voice. 

He sat beside her, her hot little hand in his, and it seemed 
to him that they talked together for the first time in their 
lives. Her voice was weak and husky with pain, but the 
pain itself relaxed its grip on her, allowing her to sink 
slowly and mercifully. 

" I'm dying, aren't I, Tristram ? " she had asked, and 
then x reading his face, added gently : " I want to know 
really. I'm not afraid to die. Why should I be ? There 
is nothing to fear only so much to hope. Tell me." 

" Anne little wife I honestly don't know. So much 
depends on your will to live " 



344 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Her smile was touched with something of its old wisdom. 

" It depends on God, Tris." 

He nodded. It was too late to show her where their roads 
met. He could only acquiesce. And presently she spoke 
again. " It's all been such a big, sad mistake, hasn't it ? " 

" What, dear ? " 

" Our marriage." 

He looked into her pinched face, in which only a child- 
like wistfulness remained. He looked then at her hand, 
hiding his own smarting eyes. 

" I suppose it has. It's my failure '* 

" You didn't love me, Tris." 

" I cared genuinely. I cared so much that I wanted 
to make you happy." He hesitated. " But I couldn't 
make myself to be the man you loved." 

" No, it was just a mistake," she agreed. 

" You're very generous, dear." 

She shook her head. 

"Oh, no it was my fault most of all. I didn't under- 
stand. There are things I don't understand even now." 

" What things ? " 

" Wickie and and that. It seems so wrong just 
a dog. You love life so Tris." 

" I love living things I can't help it helpless living 
things most of all. Even now I can't judge what I did 
it's the old problem how far one has the right to punish 
to resist evil. But I haven't any real theories. I can't 
bear pain that's all." 

Her eyes softened. 

" I know. You have been so good so tender to me. 
Last night I understood better all you are but it's too 
late " 

"No, Anne it jsn't. Live give me the chance to 
make up to you. Dear, you can. Ask God to give you the 
will. We've muddled it so far, but we've seen our mistakes. 
We can start again. Who knows but if all this trouble and 
pain wasn't meant to bring us together to give us a real 
love and knowledge of each other, Anne; couldn't it 
be ? " 

He was using instinctively the language which she could 
understand best. Yet there was a sincerity behind the 
artificial sentences, a passionate eagerness which moved 
her. She turned her head wearily on the pillow, looking 
steadily into his face. 
* 



THE MEETING OF THE WAYS 345 

" Would you be glad if I lived ?" 

" Unutterably glad." 

"Perhaps we might learn to love each other in the 
end " 

" I would try to earn your love." 

She smiled wanly. 

" I would try to to make you love me too. I don't 
know. I would be glad to live perhaps if I could only 
sleep a little. Is there a chance " 

" Only try." 

" Will you stop by me whilst I sleep ? " 

" I won't leave you." 

" I think if you're there if you wish it yes I will 
try. I will ask God to let me live." He bent and kissed 
her hand. " You won't leave me, Tris ? " 

" I promise you." 

Her eyes closed peacefully. Her hand rested in his. 
He remained motionless, hushing his own breathing. He 
did not want to disturb her by the faintest sound, and he 
himself was tired almost past feeling. He tried to hush 
even his thoughts to create an hiatus between present 
and future in which they could both rest. For an instinct 
in him knew well that the great battle lay still before 
them. The time would come when the warmth of recon- 
ciliation would grow cold, and they would face each other 
again in the full strength of their conflicting temperaments. 
But so long as this silence lasted there was peace, and in 
that peace they were very close to each other closer 
than they had ever been. 

They were both so unutterably tired. 

Of what use to force the issue now, even in his mind ? 
Who knew perhaps they had indeed learnt their lesson 
perhaps they would have patience and help each other. 
All things were possible. He had sworn to himself to 
make them possible. 

He sat there, bent forward, and listened to the rain and 
the monotonous boom of the river. His hearing was that 
of a man coming out of an anaesthetic it distorted and 
magnified sounds, and yet held them a long way off as 
though they came from another world. He could not 
bring his thoughts to bear upon them. 

Then, amidst the dull persistency of it all, there broke 
the sharp, staccato beat of hoofs the splash of a horse 
galloping through water. 



346 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Tristram rose cautiously to his feet. He had to un- 
clasp his wife's hand and her eyes opened. 

" What is it, Tris ? " 

" My messenger back from Gaya, I expect. I didn't 
believe he meant to go, but it seems I misjudged him." 

" You won't leave me, Tris ? " 

" I've promised you." 

The horse had been drawn up sharply. Tristram went 
to the door and opened it, letting in a wave of dank air. 
Sigrid stood on the threshold. She was drenched with 
rain and mud. She went past him, closing the door 
behind her. 

" Tristram I " she began breathlessly. 

"For pity's sake ! " he muttered, in utter consternation. 

Then she saw Anne lying on the bed by the wall. There 
was an instant's silence. Anne had lifted herself on her 
elbow. Her cheeks blazed with colour. All the childish 
wistfulness had gone from her expression, which was old 
and hard and cruel. 

" Is this an appointment ? " she asked clearly. " Didn't 
Tristram warn you in time ? " 

" Anne what are you saying ? " He came to her side, 
trying to force her gently back. " I know nothing of 
Mrs. Barclay's coming- she will tell you herself He 

looked towards Sigrid, standing white and still in the 
centre of the room, and his voice shook with anger. " Mrs. 
Barclay explain to my wife and to me ' 

But Anne freed herself from his hands. 

" Please don't ask her to perjure herself. I don't 
believe you, Tristram lies are nothing to you and I 
shouldn't believe her. She didn't hesitate to try and 
take you from me before a woman who can do that is 
bad" 

" It's not true," he broke in sternly. 

"It is true. She told me so with her own lips. I 
wouldn't be here now if she hadn't confessed to me. You 
wouldn't have her that's what she said. Now, I don't 
believe even that " 

She stopped, gasping for breath. Sigrid took a step 
forwards, and Tristram, as he saw her face, felt the anger 
go out of him. She also had tried to atone to safeguard 
the happiness of a woman they had both wronged. It 
had been in vain, grotesquely, tragically in vain. But 
she had not spared herself. 



THE MEETING OF THE WAYS 347 

She went past him, straight to Anne's side. 

" Mrs. Tristram " she began, " your husband has 

told you the truth. He knew nothing of my coming. I 
bring grave news " 

Anne shrank back from her. 

" Tristram tell her to go I can't bear it won't you 
do even that for me ? I'm dying you'll have time 
enough afterwards. You'll be happy with her then. 
Can't you give me this hour tell her to go " 

He stood big and determined , before her. 

" You are unjust, Anne. And you are doing yourself 
harm " 

" Does that trouble you ? " 

"I tell you, you are unjust. At least, hear why Mrs. 
Barclay has come. She may have a message for us 
perhaps from your father." 

She laughed bitterly. 

" You are very clever, Tristram. But I shan't believe 
her. I won't hear her " 

" You've got to," Sigrid interposed resolutely. " Mr. 
Meredith is dead. He has been murdered. I found him 
dying and his last message was a warning to Tristram." 

She had meant to cut short the ugly scene. There was 
no time to waste. One sentence was to save Anne the 
agony of a suspicion which seemed justified enough. But 
no relief came into the poor, passion-twisted features 
only a more terrible change. Without a sound, Anne 
dropped back among her pillows. Her eyes were closed, 
the last atom of colour drained from her open lips. 

Tristram bent over her, his hand on her pulse. The 
fear of that moment sickened him. 

" Owen, Owen ! " 

The whispered name, warm with tenderness and grief,' 
silenced them both. They could not look at each other. 
It was as though they had pried unwillingly into a 
secret which filled them with shame and a sense of tragic 
futility. She, too, had borne her burden her share of 
their common error. 

" Owen Owen ! " 

Sigrid touched Tristram's bowed shoulders. There was 
an odd diffidence in her touch, as though she had become 
afraid. 

" I didn't know how could I have known ? Have I 
hurt her ? " 
12 



348 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" It seems our fate," he answered bitterly. 

"I couldn't help it. There was no time to think. 
Something is very wrong. Rasaldu was missed yesterday. 
Then Meredith and there was no one at the bridge. I 
came as fast as I could to warn you " 

He drew himself up painfully. 

" It's no good. We can't leave here. You'd better 
go back to Gaya." He glanced quickly at her. Her 
ethereal pallor, the look of wan spirituality, smote him to 
the heart, and' yet he spoke roughly. " You ought never 
to have come. Why didn't you return to Gaya at once ? " 

" He sent me," she said simply, like a child that has 
been reproached. 

" He knew that Anne was here," he muttered. His 
eyes returned to the white, still face of his wife, as though 
he saw her for the first time. Sigrid's answer seemed to 
him no more than the whisper of his own thoughts. 

" Perhaps I should have come anyhow." 

" You won't be strong enough to ride back." 

" Oh yes I am quite strong. It's as you said, Major 
Tristram I think I shall live to be quite old." 

He heard her turn to go. He remained motionless, his 
hands clenched at his side. . No other words could have 
expressed more poignantly his own vision of the future, 
and yet he dared not answer, dared not look at her. 

" Ask them to send help," he said thickly. His voice 
shook beneath the harsh self-repression. " You see how 

it is I can't leave here I couldn't leave you here 

Yes I understand I'll send help." The door opened. 
Yet he knew that she still lingered. " Major Tristram 
I'm afraid, somehow, it's too late." 

He turned. He heard what she had heard. 

" Close the door," he said quietly. 

She obej'ed. There was something inexpressibly gentle 
and docile about her. He remembered not in thought, 
but in a vivid picture how once before they had con- 
fronted each other in that self-same place he saw her 
resolute, defiant of life, splendidly self-assured. All that 
was gone. It was as though her physical being, her bodily 
vitality had been worn away, and that there was nothing 
left but the spirit, unbroken, yet intensely weary. 

The sound of voices grew nearer. The cries, at first 
blurred into one, became separate, sharp, shrill notes 
on the dull bass of the booming waters. In- 



349 

articulate though they were, they carried an unmistakable 
significance ; they were cries of fear, more terrible, more 
pitiless than anger. 

Tristram made a gesture of q-uiet understanding. 

" Yes, it is too late," he said. " It's been working up 
to this. We shall have to face it together." 

She assented silently. 

" I can't do much. I haven't a weapon not so much 
as a rusty revolver." He smiled grimly, remembering 
their first day together. " I shouldn't do much damage, 
anyway." 

" I'm glad," she answered. 

Their eyes met. They dared look at each other now. 
In that steady, passionless encounter there was acknow- 
ledgment and confession. They saw their visions of the 
future as realities and knew that they had been the crea- 
tions of their despair. It was all impossible. They could 
not have gone on. They were exhausted. They had 
worn themselves out in the effort to bear their burdeii 
honourably, to break the rare mysterious decree which 
binds one being to another in defiance of all human law 
and circumstance. It was over. Soon they would be 
able to rest." 

" If only Anne were safe ! " he said. 

" We must try and help her " 

He felt a hand on his sleeve. He looked down and 
saw that his wife's eyes were open. She clung to him. 

" You won't leave me, Tris ? " 

" No, no, I promise you." 

" I'm so frightened " 

He could not answer. The vain assurance died on his 
lips. He could only hold her hand in his, comforting her 
to the last. The door opened and he turned, facing 
whatever was to come. 

Barclay entered ; Vahana, at his heels, lingered sinisterly 
in the shadow, but Barclay strode straight forward, his 
arrogant eyes flashing from one face to the other. He 
held himself as he had always longed to hold himself as 
the master, as the more than equal. He looked straight 
at Tristram, and in that steadfast regard there was 
satisfaction, an almost voluptuous foreknowledge of 
satiated passions. 

" You are my prisoner," he said. 

" Whom do you represent, Mr. Barclay ? " 



350 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

"The Rajah Ayeshi." He saw, or thought he saw, 
amusement in Tristram's eyes, and pointed to the open 
doorway " and two thousand armed men." 

" Is this Ayeshi's order ? " 

" It is my order Rajah Ayeshi accepts my leadership." 

" Then it was you who murdered Rasaldu and Mr. 
Meredith ? " 

He smiled. 

" And others. Believe me, there will be no living white 
man or woman in Gaya by midnight my wife excepted." 
He made Sigrid a little satirical bow. " In spite of cir- 
cumstances, I am glad of the chance to make that excep- 
tion. My wife will follow me." 

" Your wife is waiting for you in Gaya," she answered. 
She felt rather than saw Anne lift herself on her elbow. 
She felt Tristram's movement and added simply : li Mr. 
Barclay was married years ago. My marriage with him 
was illegal, and I am free." 

She did not see the ugly little smile quiver about Anne's 
lips. She held her ground, patient, content. She had 
broken the last link which held her to a loathed life. It 
was as though she breathed a fresher, purer air. 

" That frees me from all responsibility, doesn't it ? " 
Barclay suggested. 

." Quite." 

He hesitated. His minutes in the place were num- 
bered. His ears, attuned to catch the first warning, re- 
minded him of the remorseless, oncoming danger, and yet 
he faltered. A bitter taste of failure was in his mouth. 

" You had better follow me, Tristram. Resistance is 
useless." 

" As you will. I have only one request to make. Re- 
spect my wife. She is very ill." 

Barclay shrugged his shoulders. 

" A dying woman ? I can grant you that much." 

But even in the midst of his brutal self-assertiveness, a 
merciless flash of intuition showed him himself as they 
saw him. His power slipped through his fingers. He 
looked from Sigrid to Tristram, and knew their immeasur- 
able indifference to all that he could threaten. They \\rre 
not afraid almost they were glad. He could not pene- 
trate their mood he only felt it as an intolerable hurt 
a frustration of that madly aching desire in him. They 
stood aloof from him as they had always done. He could 



351 

not reach them the woman had shaken herself free from 
his very name as from something loathsome. To the last 
ineffectual, beyond the pale. He had meant to strike 
he had set them free. 

He made a gesture, and Vahana closed the door. He 
came and stood close to Sigrid, staring into her face. 

" Will you come with me ? " he asked. She made no 
answer. He felt his lips trembling. " I could make 
you," he broke out. 

" I think not." 

" You mean that, sooner or later, you would escape me ? 
I dare say. You are brave enough. But I ask you to 
come with me of your own free will as my mistress as 
anything on earth I choose to share my life whatever 
future I have faithfully " 

" Aren't you wasting time, Mr. Barclay ? " Tristram 
interposed. 

Barclay remained with his eyes on Sigrid 's face. 

"If you will come with me, Sigrid, Major Tristram can 
go back to Gaya." 

She seemed scarcely to hear him. He heard Tristram 
laugh. 

" Isn't this all rather melodramatic, Barclay ? Do you 
really imagine I am anxious to save my life on such terms I 
Why don't you get on with things ? " 

Barclay swung round on his heel. 

" And does my offer really amuse you ? Are you 
amused at the death of a score or so of your countrymen 
up there in Gaya ? That's what it amounts to. Mrs. 
Boucicault is giving a dinner to the station to-night. In 
three hours' time, the regiment mutinies, and your friends 
will be wiped out without being able to lift a hand 
unless you warn them. Is that amusing 1 " 

He drew a deep breath of content. He had seen Tris 
tram flinch. He had reached him at last, had forced him 
down from his heights to meet him in the equality of a 
life-and-death struggle. He could afford now to be 
patient and composed. 

It was Sigrid who spoke. Her voice sounded curiously 
flat and lifeless. 

" Why have you told us this ? " 

He turned to her. 

" Because I am asking a great deal of you. This is not 
our old bargain, Sigrid. If you come with me, it must be 



352 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

on ray own terms. I don't know where I am going but 
I shall be an exile an Eurasian outcast with a price on 
his head. And } 7 ou have got to stick to n 

" And your wife ? She believes that 3"ou care for her." 

His hands were clenched. 

" I have done with caring," he said harshly. " You've 
taken care that I shouldn't put love first in my life. Leave 
my wife out of this. Nothing concerns you but your own 
decision." 

" And you are ready to sacrifice your plans ? " 

" I am prepared to give Gaya a fighting chance," he 
interrupted sternly. " I do not pretend that it is more 
than that perhaps not so much." 

" If if I consent, will you keep faith ? Have you the 
power ? " 

" I have the power. Ayeshi will consent to anything 
I suggest. Remember I have to trust you, too 
He hesitated, and then added slowly: "I do trust you." 

She made a groping, uncertain gesture. 

" Tristram 

But he threw back his head in defiance. 

" It can't be. Gaya wouldn't be saved at such a cost." 

"It isn't what Gaya would want it's what we've got 
to do we ourselves don't count." 

" Your honour " he burst out. 

" What is honour ? " she retorted finely. " By your 
own creed, Tristram what other honour is there but our 
duty towards others ? " 

He fought against her, against the light which he saw 
gathering in her eyes against himself. 

" It's a hideous impossibility." 

" The hideousness isn't ours. It isn't impossible." 

" Decide can't you ? " Barclay flung at them. 

Tristram turned to him with a gesture of immeasurable 
contempt. 

" So you betray all your masters ? " he said. 

"I am the ^on of a betrayal," Barclay retorted, smiling 
bitterly. " Has that ever troubled you ? Why trouble 
yourself now about me ? " 

Sigrid's eyes avoided Tristram's face. The grey horror 
of it shook her. 

" It's as Mr. Barclay says we've only got to consider 
our own actions." 

" Then you've decided ? " 



THE MEETING OF THE WAYS 353 

" Is there any choice ? " she asked sternly. 

For one moment he hated her as a man hates the cause 

,of an intolerable suffering. The next, he saw that she 

had outstripped him. She had taken the fundamentals of 

his life and built her own edifice upon them a higher, 

finer edifice than his own. 

" I see that there is no choice for you," he said, with a 
chivalrous resignation. " And you're right. We don't 
count." 

He felt the hand in his tighten. He looked down into 
his wife's ashen face. Throughout she had not spoken 
scarcely moved. Now the change in her startled him out 
of the stupefying absorption of his pain. He saw that she 
had ceased to be afraid, and that the malice and anger 
had gone from her. He saw her as she had been in her 
girlhood, in her first innocent, incredulous love of him. 
Her failing eyes were full of a deep, unearthly pity. 

" Tris you are both very brav,e." 

A groan burst from his lips. 

"Anne I can't leave you." 

" You must-. That is my little share in the sacrifice. 
I shan't be afraid now, Tris." 

He knelt down beside her. She put her weak arms round 
his neck and kissed him. " Good-bye, husband." 

" Little Anne God keep you." 

She smiled a little. 

" I'm sure He will." 

Barclay moved impatiently. He saw that they had for- 
gotten him. 

" Will you come, Sigrid ? " 

She bent her head in assent. 

" Then you can go your way, Major," Barclay said. 

But it was as though the last weapon which his tortured 
pride had forged for him had shivered against an im- 
pregnable armour. They were great these people even 
in defeat even Anne, little cowardly Anne could face 
death alone and unflinchingly. He recognised that great- 
ness with a last anguish. He had their blood in him. If 
they had turned to him, recognised him, appealed to him 

in the name of their common ancestry, even then 

But they did not think of him. He was a whirlwind 
driving them apart to their separate destinies a"n im- 
personal, soulless force no more. 

" Come ! " he demanded violently. 



354 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Tristram gave Sigrid his hand. They took up their 
burden of life. It had become heavier; but they took 
it up. And for a while they would carry -it. But in the 
end theft would be rest. That was their message and 
their farewell. 

Tristram went out into the rain-swept street past 
Vahana, who looked up into his face and laughed. 

Sigrid lingered. She drew shyly near the camp-bed 
with its little burden. 

"Good-bye " 

But Anne stretched out her hand and drew Sigrid down 
to her and kissed her. 

" Yours is the hardest part. I judged harshly. For- 
give." 

" There is no need our ways have met in the end." 

The door closed presently. It grew very still in the 
little hut. The voices and the clatter of hoofs faded in 
the distance. All other sounds sank into the deepening, 
growing call of the flood. 

Anne lay still. Her eyes lingered on the shadowy 
furniture. Even now there was Wickie's old basket in 
the corner. Poor Tristram ! She sighed faintly wearily. 
Somehow now it was so much easier to understand God 
was all-merciful. 

It was growing dark. She tried to compose herself. 
The shadows were rising up all around her. She was not 
afraid. Owen would be there he would be waiting for 
her it would be just as it had always been only more 
perfect. 

She tried to fold her hands. 

" Our Father which art ' 

It was as though a great sea poured over her engulfing 
her in its peace. 



CHAPTER XIII 

TO GAYA ! 

TRISTRAM led Arabella out of her stable and spoke 
gently to her. He showed no sign of haste or 
trouble. He did not believe Barclay. He was 
convinced that there was no intention to allow him to 
leave Heerut living. Even Barclay could not betray his 
followers so openly. Yet he had no right to refuse the 
chance, and in the end it could make but little difference. 
He mounted and walked Arabella down the centre of 
the flooded street. Across the western exit of the village, 
where the land lay highest, the two thousand had herded 
together like a pack of hunted wolves awaiting the 
signal from their leader. Ayeshi sat his horse a little in 
advance, with Barclay and the shadowy mendicant to his 
right. Tristram rode towards them unmoved. He held 
himself with his usual casual ease, a little loosely, with 
one fist stemmed against his thigh. There was no con- 
scious bravado in the attitude. An instinct inherited from 
generations of men who had confronted the same enemy 
at the same odds taught him an unchallenging serenity. 
As he drew nearer, he looked full into Ayeshi's face and 
read in the sombre eyes the confirmation of his death. 
He might have spoken made some appeal to the old 
memories that bound them, but something perhaps the 
consciousness that for that moment he represented more 
than himself held him sternly silent. Barclay smiled, 
but his eyes too, were overshadowed with a knowledge 
in which there was neither happiness nor triumph. Thus 
the three men met in a last encounter. For an instant 
they seemed to be alone to be standing on a lofty plateau 
above the watching crowd, confronting each other with 
a tragic perception of something common to them all, and 
of a destroying, merciless destiny. 
12* 355 



356 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Then Vahana laughed, shrilly, exultantly, and it was 
over. 

Tristram rode past Ayeshi. He reached the border of 
the crowd. Arabella hesitated' and he touched her gently 
with his heels. She understood, and, understanding, be- 
came insolently irresistible. The first man whom she 
nosed aside hesitated, his hand on his knife. Tristram 
did not look at him. His eyes passed carelessly over the 
sea of upturned faces. He did not draw himself up. So 
he might have ridden among them on a feast day, or as 
they returned from their work on the plain. His expres- 
sion was neither defiant, nor contemptuous. To the last, 
even as he awaited death at their hands, he remained one of 
them, not judge or master or victim, but man among men. 

One step more. The sea closed in behind him. 
Would it come now ? He knew that it would be in 
his back. Sooner or later the hypnotic spell which his 
presence threw over them would snap. Some hand, 
bolder, more resolved than the rest would lift itself, and 
then the waves would close over him for ever. Yet as he 
rode on, winning each step, the tension of waiting relaxed. 
He forgot himself. Something rose up to him in that 
heated, foetid atmosphere of a passion-ridden humanity. 
It enveloped him with a deeper knowledge of their dim 
strivings, of their dimmer hopes, and great fears. He 
saw in their revolt only a thwarted desire, a piteous cling- 
ing to the only faith they knew, in their hating cruelty 
only the curse under which all men, struggling blindly 
towards their vision of the future, flood their path with 
the blood of their brothers. 

He did not pity them. The burden of their life was his. 
He forgot himself as the individual. He was part of the 
universe, part of all life. The instinct in him was to hold 
out his hands to them in recognition in acceptance of 
their common destiny. 

He did not know that his face had changed as he rode 
slowly forward, nor that the faith which burnt up in him 
shone in his eyes. He only knew that suddenly it was 
over. The last wondering, questioning face flashed past 
him. He was out in the open free. 

Arabella broke into a canter. He -pulled her back to a 
walk. The time had not yet come. They would recover 
now. Some of them had rifles. They would use them. 
There must be no sign of flight, of fear. 



TO GAYA! 357 

Ten yards twenty fifty still nothing. Another pace 
or two, and he stood on a hillock, his body, as he knew, 
sharply outlined against the light. He drew in deliberately. 
Still nothing. He went on. He was hidden now. He 
called to Arabella, and then they were galloping towards 
Gay a. 

Three hours and fifteen miles of bad road perhaps partly 
flooded. So far there was only mud, into which Arabella 
sank up to the fetlocks, but down on the plain itself there 
would be morass hi places water. His mind foresaw 
each mile, each obstacle. If it could be done, Arabella 
would do it. No thoroughbred had her pluck and stamina. 
But it would be a close finish. Night was coming on. It 
would be dark within an hour. He would have to rely on 
his instinct to guide him. The lights of Gaya would not 
carry half a mile through the rain which fell in a finely 
woven curtain from the loaded sky. 

He had ceased to question Barclay's action or Ayeshi's 
curious acquiescence. Possibly they had not meant him 
to escape possibly they had relied on his coming too 
late or on the futility of his warning. It was useless to 
speculate. He could only act do the best he could. 

He breasted the last hillock which separated him from 
the plain. The roar of the river sounded ominous even 
then like the roll of continues, unmodulated thunder. 
Then on her own initiative, Arabella slithered to a stand- 
still, her ears pricked, her lean body quivering with appre- 
hension. 

Tristram brushed the rain from his eyes. For an instant 
he was only incredulous distrustful of his own senses. 
Twenty-four hours ago a wide flat stretch of saturated 
fertile soil the bold, sweeping line of the Ganges and now 
this this level, rising, onward-flowing surface, broken 
near the centre by a broad ribbon of sinister, rippling move- 
ment no landmark left, no grass, no trace of land one 
stupendous, terrible monotony of water. 

Then he knew what Barclay had known. The floods had 
come. The catastrophe of which old villagers had spoken 
with bated breath had broken over them. He could hear 
the water lapping against the base of the rising ground. 
With every minute it grew louder, nearer. In a few hours 
it might well be that the whole plain might be covered 
Heerut the temple itself. 

He spoke to Arabella. He felt that figuratively she 



358 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

shrugged her shoulders. They had done many mad things 
together in their day, and this was the maddest and the 
last ; but, if he wished it, she had no objection. She went 
slithering and stumbling down into the water. It rose to 
her knees, to his feet and there for the time stopped. They 
waded steadily towards the bridge-head. If it grew no 
deeper than this the passage might still be possible. He 
leant forward eagerly in the saddle, waiting for his goal to 
outline itself against the eternal greyness. There was no 
sound but the sish of the water as it broke from Arabella's 
shoulders and her own heavy breathing. He had c< 
to hear the boom which had first warned him. He M 
the midst of it and it became a kind of silence. It was a 
part of his consciousness it had been there always. 

Striking diagonally across the plain, he left the black 
mass of the temple on his right. He could not feel any 
current, and yet he was aware that they were being drawn 
insidiously towards the centre. The knowledge did not 
trouble him. So long as he could keep Arabella's head up 
the river, he could afford to give ground. He did not 
contemplate the possibility of being sucked into the torrent 
itself. As yet Arabella's foothold was sure and her progress 
steady. 

No suspicion of the truth had reached him. 

But still he could not see the bridge. Once past the 
temple it was the first important landmark, and he began 
to wonder whether, in spite of Arabella's sturdy efforts, 
they were really moving forward . The horror of the pa 
tune coiled itself round him, stifling him. He knew fear 
already the drab daylight was failing rapidly. Yet there 
was no bridge. 

He was drifting nearer to the river's banks. He could 
mark them definitely by the break in the placid surface 
the sudden rush, the eddies and deep pits of the whirl- 
pools. He could judge the pace of the torrent by the 
passing of odd, as yet unrecognisable fragments. They sped 
on their way, now disappearing for many minutes, now 
carried from side to side in cross currents, but always in 
headlong movement. Some of the fragments were like 
email islands they stood upright out of the water like 
pillars of a ruined church, black and straight. 

Still there was no bridge. 

" Mother Ganges demands toll of those who curb her." 

Suddenly he understood. He understood Barclaj^'a 



TO GAYA! 359 

smile and Ayeshi's acquiescence. He recognised those 
pillars. They were motionless. They held their place in 
the torrent like the defiant remnant of an annihilated army, 
like tragic monuments to man's futility. 

The bridge had gone. 

For a moment he drew Arabella to a standstill. He had 
lost all sense of anxiety, all thought of failure. Methodic- 
ally but rapidly, he threw overboard every unnecessary 
weight ; his water-logged riding boots, various small items 
in his pockets, a heavy belt with a metal clasp, his coat. 
With an effort he managed to cut the girths and finally to 
remove the saddle itself, flinging it to the rest. Then he 
turned Arabella's head towards the river. 

They were moving quickly now perilously quickly. In 
what seemed no more than a minute they had reached the 
limit. The water rose above his knees, he could feel it 
circling round him: a living monster, awaiting its moment. 
He bent forward and patted Arabella's neck and whispered 
to her, and kissed her warm sleekness. She whinnied 
challengingly, tossing her head. Then plunged. 

The torrent passed over them. He went down under a 
crushing opaque mass of delirious water. It seemed many 
minutes perhaps it was only a second or two then they 
rose again. Arabella's head was turned down stream. 
She made no effort. She was panic-stricken helpless. 
He called to her. He himself was stunned and could 
barely keep his seat. Invisible forces had hold of him, 
dragging at him. At last he had her head round, and she 
struck out with the energy of terror. They were moving 
now. He could judge their progress by the two pillars 
mere specks on the rushing greyness. A fierce exultation 
possessed him the glory of struggle they were moving. 
Arabella had found- her stride. Though they drifted, too, 
they were not wholly at the mercy of the current. Foot by 
foot, they were winning their way across. It did not 
matter that they were being swept further down the river. 
Once on dry land they could make up for lost time. Then 
Arabella would not fail. 

But now he was afraid for her. He could feel in his own 
nerves and sinews the cost of her heroic effort the rising 
agony of her exhaustion. He believed that already she 
was finished. He felt her go down under him. Then, in 
answer to a supreme demand of her spirit, she rose again 
the blood streaming from her nostrils. He called to her, 



360 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

and she turned her head a little. He could see her eyes, 
their whites veined with red, and he remembered Wickie. 
It was the same look, the same unfaltering confidence, the 
same patient acceptance of suffering. For herself alone 
she would not have struggled farther ; but for him, for his 
life she accepted the crushing, heart-breaking burden of 
living. 

Strange things raced past them fragments horrible in 
their significance an unhinged door, a table, a wooden 
image swept from some village shrine, its battered face 
staring from out of the foaming water in grotesque serenity ; 
dead things the carcase of a bullock, a woman's rigid hand 
tossed up in horrible semblance of appeal, a baby's body ; 
living things the hideous snout of a mugger battling against 
steam, its jaws snapping greedily at the passing provender, 
a cheetah, caught perhaps in the midst of some marauding 
expedition, which struggled to Tristram's side and kept 
close to him. He called to it and it turned its eyes to him 
in frantic supplication and terror. In that dread moment 
they were comrades, fighting shoulder to shoulder against 
the common enemy. 

They reached mid-stream. In a minute they would be 
out of the worst out of danger. He turned his head ; 
he wanted to measure by the pillars how far they had still 
to go. He saw the end coming. It was grotesque absurd 
a native hovel that had been caught up bodily. It 
bore down upon him, staggering drunkenly on the full 
breast of the current. It seemed to blot out the sky 
a monstrous, towering Juggernaut. 

A figure clung to the thatched roof. It was gesticulating 
wildly in fear or warning, he could not tell. But there 
was no escape. The rocking structure was travelling with 
the speed of an express, Arabella had almost ceased to 
move. Tristram slipped quietly from her back, only 
holding to her bridle, and she rose buoyantly. In that 
final moment, a deep-rooted instinct in him had prevailed. 
She was to have her chance. He struck out turning his 
head for a last time towards the onrushing catastrophe. 
It was not more than twenty yards away. He could see 
the man's dark face staring down into the water aghast, 
silly- looking. Hiagrotesque vessel seemed suddenly to stop, 
to draw back, quivering like a frightened, death-stricken 
animal then plunged headlong flashed like a pebble 
over the edge of a precipice. 



TO GAYA! 361 

Tristram closed his eyes. He tasted death. He knew 
the horror of suffocation the pitiless night which swirled 
over him, choking him, stupefying him. 

Twenty yards lower down the hut reappeared. Its roof 
was battered in. The clinging, piteous figure had vanished. 

Tristram twisted Arabella's bridle about his arm. It 
was his last deliberate act. He was dimly eonscious of 
movement, of being, sucked against warm, heaving flanks, 
of a hand that closed down blackly on his will to live. He 
knew that he was letting go his hold he<.was beaten. He 
felt himself go down then one last thrill of consciousness. 
His feet jarred against something he was being dragged 
dragged over a soft spongy substance. 

He tried to right himself but instead stuuifcled pitched 
headlong into oblivion. 



CHAPTER XIV 

RESURRECTION 

i^minds me of a story some one told me once," 
Mrs. Brabazone declared. "I think' it was 

George " George, seated three places lower 

down on the opposite side of the table, looked up anxiously 
and, meeting his wife's eyes, signalled a denial. " Yes, I'm 
sure it was you, George. Anyhow, it's a very good story. 
It was about a Lancashire coal-heaver or was it a cotton- 
spinner ? What do they do in Lancashire ? I never can 
remember. But I know they make a frightful lot of money, 
and are horribly extravagant." She considered a moment. 
" Yes it is extravagant, not mean. I get so confused. 
And one day when he was dying- 

Some one laughed, and Mrs. Brabazone glanced up 
perplexedly. " My dear, that isn't the point at least, I 
don't think so. George, do tell it. It's such a good 
story." 

The Judge, usually the soul of courtesy, turned a deaf 
ear and fixed his attention with an expression of almost 
passionate interest on Colonel Armstrong, who M 
on Mrs. Boucicault's left. The Colonel was discussing the 
prospects of the rains, his manner beautifully Anglo-Saxon 
in its optimistic serenity. 

" I'm sure we can congratulate ourselves that the worst 
is over," he said. " As long as the banks at Bjura hold 
there is nothing to fear, and Rutherford promised to let 
us know the moment there was any danger on account 
of the bridge, of course. Poor Matherson was rather 
rattled about the bridge. It's his first single-handed 
job, and a swollen river like that is a severe test. How- 
ever, he's kept quiet, so we can presume that it's holding 
out," 

362 



RESURRECTION 363 

Mrs. Boucicault smiled. She smiled very often always 
when a reply was expected of her. It covered over her 
silence. It was a curious smile. It came suddenly and 
faded slowly, leaving behind it a* kind of grimace. Her 
eyes, abnormally Large and intensely blue, were fixed 
blankly on the length of the table. Its display of silver, 
the many flowers, the subdued lights, the noiseless servants 
whose dark hands reached out spectrally from the shadows, 
seemed to absorb her. Certainly it was a feast unequalled 
in the annals of Gaya's sociabilities. Some of the guests 
were even vaguely oppressed by it. A pace was being set 
which none of them could hope to keep up. 

Dr. Martin, seated a few places lower down on his 
kestess's right, scarcely turned ihis eyes from her face. 
She seemed to fascinate him. His neighbour the wife of 
a newly arrived Captain decided that he was a very 
stupid little man. He rarely spoke, and seemed to have 
no appetite. Her inherited antipathy for civilians in- 
creased to dislike, and she pitied herself intensely. In 
despite, she amused herself with Captain Compton, who 
was her vis-a-vis, dilating rather maliciously on the glories 
of Simla, from whence she hailed. 

The conversation never flagged. Its feverish persistency 
covered the splash of the rain outside the open windows and 
the sound of smothered, angry whisperings somewhere 
behind the curtained doorways. Mrs. Compton, who was 
an old hand at Indian life, sensed "nerves " in that per- 
petual chatter, in that resolute determination to shut out 
alike thought and silence. The last weeks had been almost 
unbearable. She herself had never experienced anything 
to equal the incessant downpour. But it was more than the 
climate. There was unrest in the air. From her husband 
she had heard mutteriugs to the effect that Armstrong, good 
soldier though he was, did not know how to tackle the ugly 
temper of his men that a demand had been sent to head- 
quarters for a battalion of white troops. Then other things 
had gone wrong Rasaldu, Sigrid, Barclay it was one 
long sequence of trouble. 

Aad now to-night, Mrs. Boucicault sat at the head of the 
table with her staring, unseeing eyes and grey, powdered 
face, looking like a smiling death's-head. 

Mary Compton thought of the man who lay paralysed 
and silent behind the walls, and wondered if beneath their 
gaiety the others thought of him and of the unknown hand 



364 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

which had struck him down. Things happened in India. 
They came out of the darkness like lightning struck, and 
vanished. It was no wonder people had nerves. They 
were in the minority in reality quite powerless. It was 
just bluff splendid bluff. 

Mrs. Compton bit her lip. She had nearly screamed. 1 n 
the midst of her unpleasant reflections, the voices in the 
corridor had risen to an angry clamour. Suddenly the 
curtains were pushed violently aside. The butler entered 
backwards, expostulating, gesticulating, followed over- 
whelmingly by Mrs. Smithers. Her entry, her rain-soaked 
clothes and dishevelled grey hair might have been comic 
might have caused amused surprise discomfort ; but 
there was something else about her a resolution, a reality 
of tense anxiety which, reflected on the faces of those 
who saw her first, brought the rest to an instantaneous 
silence. 

She looked round the table, and, seeing Mrs. Compton, 
Avho had hah* risen, burst into breathless speech. 

" It's Sigrid she's gone she's been gone since this 
morning I've waited I couldn't bear it any longer. 
She'll die. It's her heart. And that man that scoundrel 
his real wife's down there now crying her eyes out. 
It made me sick. I had to come. Mrs. Compton, you 
cared for her you'll help me. Don't you know anything 
don't you know where she's gone ? " 

The broken, incoherent flow came to a more resolute end . 
The servants made a movement as though to approach 
her, but Mrs. Boucicault waved them back. She had 
become suddenly alert and watchful, as though for some- 
thing which she had long foreseen. 

Mrs. Compton looked helplessly round the table. 

" Does any one know I haven't seen Mrs. Barclay for 
days " 

" You can call her Miss Fersen," Mrs. Smithers broke 
in doggedly. 

" Well, you know who I mean. Perhaps she's taken 
shelter ' 

"It was raining when she started out. That was this 
morning early after that woman came " 

" What woman ? " 

"Mrs. Barclay a' 'nigger, like him." 

Mrs. Smithers was uncompromising violent. She did 
not care that she interrupted, that forty of Gaya's most 



RESURRECTION 365 

important inhabitants stared at her with varying feelings 
of consternation and annoyance. She was frightened. 
Her fear had tightened its hold with every hour of futile 
waiting, till what self-consciousness she had was stifled 
out of her. Her fear was everything. These people were 
nothing. Her disparagement of them expressed itself in 
every line of her grim, ashen features. 

"You mean" Colonel Armstrong leant back judi- 
cially in his chair, fingering the stem of his wine-glass 
" you mean actually that Mrs. your mistress discovered 
this morning that that, in fact, her marriage had been 
illegal ? " 

" That's it. She wasn't his wife never had been, thank 
God." 

"Isn't it conceivable I don't want to frighten you 
that in her despair she may have done something 
rash ? " 

Mrs. Smithers jerked her head with a movement of utter 
contempt. 

" You men seem to think we're always in despair if 
we lose one of you precious creatures most times it's 
t'other way round. She was glad. It's the first time 
I've seen her happy for months and months. He's done 
away with her and you sit there like a herd of stuck 
pigs 

" Really, my good woman " 

" I'm not your good woman. A lot you care. She's 
one of your blood worth the whole crowd of you and 
you treated her like dirt just because she got into the 
clutches of one of your your wickednesses " 

" Smithy ! " Mrs. Compton implored. 

" I don't care it's true." 

Armstrong looked helplessly at Mrs. Boucicault; but 
Mrs. Boucicault was staring in front of her with that 
same look of tense expectancy. The new arrival from Simla 
shivered. She did not understand the scene, but she 
thought it vulgar and horrid. These out-of-the-way 
stations were very uncivilised. It was amazing how 
quickly the smartest people lost their polish. 

Captain Compton came" suddenly to the rescue. 

" It's a queer thing," he said, in his deliberate way. 
" Meredith and Rasaldu and now -Miss Fersen " 

" Rubbish ! " Armstrong knitted his brows at his 
junior. " Meredith has probably taken the Rajah with 



366 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

him on his rounds. It's happened before. As to Mrs. 
Miss Fersen, there are any amount of possible explana- 
tions. Hex horse may have fallen lame. I've always 
set my face against this silly craze for riding alone, and 
now " 

He stopped. The stem of his wine-glass snapped under 
the sudden pressure of his fingers. The Simla woman 
gave a little scream and rose to her feet. He frowned 
at her. The men exchanged glances. The women were 
curiously still looking towards the window. Armstrong 
laughed, mopping up his wine with his napkin. " 'Pon 
my word, we're all suffering from nerves. Absurd. Some 
sentry " 

But no one listened to him. Compton got up and ran 
out of the window down into the garden. They heard 
scuffling a muttered exclamation the sound of some- 
thing soft and heavy being dragged up the steps. They 
sat still waiting. They saw Compton hesitating on the 
threshold of the light. He was bending down 

" Give me a hand some one, for God's sake ! " 

George Bosanquet pushed back his chair and turned to 
his assistance. Between them the huddled, shapeless 
something was pulled into the room. It lay inert. The 
shadow covered it. One of the men snatched up a light, 
holding it above his head. 

" What is it ? " 

" Tristram " 

" What not ? " 

" I don't know tumbled off his horse. Pull the cur- 
tains get the servants out of the room." Armstrong 
took over Compton's command. The natives fled noise- 
lessly before his imperative gestures. The curtains 
were dragged across, shutting out the black, menacing 
gulf. They were all on their feet now two brilliant 
lines of colour with that blot lying in a pool of mud 
and rain " 

" Give me wine anything." 

Tristram stirred. With Compton and Botanquet on 
either side of him, he dragged himself to his knees. The 
water dripped from his face from his clothes. He was 
almost unrecognisable. 

" It's nothing they missed me. Only winded " 

HP pushed the proffered glass aside. " l\as iJdu Meredith 
both murdered yesterday regiment mutinies orga- 



RESURRECTION 367 

nised for to-night not a soul to escape any minute now. 
That was the first shot " 

" Where have you corne from ? " 

" Heerut. Bridge gone. Had to swim for it " 

" Matherson ? " 

" Gone I don't know. Don't talk " 

" Of course not we must act. Who's on duty to- 
night ? " 

" Farquhar Haverton " 

" They must be warned." 

" It's too late. It'd show them we were prepared. 
Our only chance is to take them by surprise What's 
that? " 

" Firing. Poor devils ! We shall be the next. Who's 
at the bottom of this, Tristram ? " 

"Ayeshi Barclay what's it matter? Do some- 
thing ! " 

They looked at each other. Something like a smile 
passed over their faces. They were very calm very 
quiet. The men and women were equally aware that there 
was not much they could do. They were cut off by hun- 
dreds of miles from any real assistance. It would have 
taken an hour at least to have gathered the rest of Gaya 
together and prepared a defence that might suggest even 
a fighting chance. As it was, they had perhaps a few 
iitt*es If one or two of them had a weapon in his 
possession it would be a great piece of luck. The thought 
of a five-chambered revolver three chambers empty 
which he happened to hav.e slipped into the pocket of his 
military overcoat some days back gave Compton such 
an absurd thrill of satisfaction that he laughed. 

" We shall have to shy the spoons at 'em ! " he 
said. 

Mrs. Boucicault brushed the fluffy grey 'hair from her 
forehead. 

'' My husband has a few guns in his rack," she said 
quietly. " He used them for hunting, but they might do. 
I think there are some cartridges, too I don't know we 
might look." 

" Better than nothing." Armstrong began to direct, 
heavily but systematically. " Compton, get the servants 
together. Shut them up and see that they don't get a 
chance to communicate with any one outside. Five of you 
had better keep a look-out. The rest stay here. It would 



368 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

be better to go on as though nothing had happened. We 
shall defend this side of the house this room, in fact. 
We're too few for anj'thing more. Mrs. Boucicault, please 
lead the way " 

He was obeyed. The'' women reseated themselves. 
Mary Compton began to talk. Mrs. Brabazone took up the 
tangled thread of her story and unravelled it laboriously. 
The dead white table-cloth and the brilliant colours of the 
flowers made their faces look livid. 

" It's like old times," Mrs. Compton declared. " I 
expect it's really a blessing in disguise. If we didn't have 
these periodical shake-ups our livers would never work at 
all. We do eat such dreadfully unhealthy things. Some- 
body pass me the almonds. Let's have our desserts now 
as well as in the hereafter ! " 

It was an old and rather feeble jest, but it served its 
purpose. The Simla woman laughed heartily. Mrs. 
Bosanquet grumbled. 

" People always seem to find something in Mary's 
remarks. It's base favouritism. I'm every bit as 
funny " 

"A lot more, my dear." Mrs. Compton's manner was 
that of a rather' over-excited school-girl. She ate salted 
almonds vivaciously and threw one at Tristram, who had 
stumbled to ofchair and sat there with his face between his 
hands. " You look like a drowned rat, Hermit not a bit 
lovable. Where's Anne ? " 

He glanced up with blood -shot eyes. 

" I think she's dead," he said, hoarsely. " She died 
alone in Heerut. Sigrid has gone with Barclay. It was 
his offer you understand ? I shouldn't be here now if 
it wasn't for her. She and Anne they thought of you 
they neither of them funked." 

They were silent for a moment. A spasm passed over 
Mary Compton's face. She reached desperately for the 
sweetmeats. 

" Mrs. Bosanquet for mercy's sake, tell that Lancashire 
story of yours " 

" It's about a miner," Mrs. Bosanquet began jerkily. 
" You know how horribly dirty they are. And one day 
he came home he was very ill, you know, and his wife 
said " 

She laboured on with quivering lips. They listened 
attentively. A sound of shouting came from the barracks 



RESURRECTION 369 

not a quarter of a mile distant. Tristram and Mrs. Compton 
exchanged glances. 

" They're working up to concert-pitch " 



In the quiet, white-washed soldier's room, Armstrong 
and Bosanquet were collecting what weapons they could 
find. Mrs. Bfeueicault had underestimated, but even so 
there was not much hope to be found in the six double- 
barrelled guns and the few cases of ammunition. 

Mrs. Boucicualt stood at the foot of her husband's bed, 
looking at him. They were both so still the grey- haired, 
painted woman and the big man lying stretched out beneath 
the thin sheet that Armstrong almost forgot them. But 
at the door he remembered and looked back. 

" You'd better explain to your husband I'll send some 

one to carry him he must be where we are " He 

hesitated, and then added gruffly : " You don't need to 
worry, Boucicault. You shan't fall into their hands, I 
give you my word of honour." 

They went out. Still Eleanor Boucicault remained at 
her place at the foot of the bed. The man's eyes were 
fixed on her. They were distended. The dim light could 
not reveal their expression, yet all the life which had made 
its last stand in their depths seemed to gather together 
with a supreme effort to spread over his face to swell 
the withered muscles.- 

The distant shouting reached them. The sound re- 
leased her from her still absorption. She threw herself 
down on her knees beside him. 

" They're going to kill us, Richard they're going to 
kill us. It's the regiment your regiment. Colonel 
Armstrong says we can't do much. They'll just just do 
what they like ! Do you hear that shouting ? That 
means they're coming. They know we're here they know 
you're here. You made them hate us just as you made 
me hate you." She gripped him by the shoulders, her 
words rushing down on him in a fevered, awful torrent. 
" It doesn't matter to me I'm dying, anyhow. You've 
killed me. That's what I want to tell you. I didn't tell 
you before, because I thought you'd be glad. But now 
we're going to die together I want you to understand. 

Look at this ' She tore open the bosom of her dress. 

" You did that that time you struck me. It never 



370 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

healed it never will. It's cancer Oh, but I've had a 
good time all the same. I've spent your money, Richard. 
I've made you suffer. I've had you to hurt when I 
couldn't bear the pain any longer. And now now you're 
just going to die like a rabbit in a trap." She burst out 
laughing. There was a long flat chest against the wall, 
and she went to it with quick, tottering steps and opened 
it. The neatly folded uniforms, the sword in its leather 
case she flung the whole contents down before him with 
a shrill cry of bitter triumph. " You'll never wear them 
again, Richard. You won't go down fighting / shall, 
but not you you'll just lie there and trust to us to have 
mercy on you. You're just a wreck a crumbling, hideous 
ruin. That's why I hate you why they hate you those 
men who are coming to kill us. We loved you so. You 
were our god our Bagh Sahib and then you became 
a devil." 

She knelt down by the heap of red and gold splendour. 
She was crying, and the tears carved deep channels through 
the paint and powder. 

" Bagh Sahib ! " 

She put her hand over her mouth. It was as though 
she had tried to smother a scream, but no sound had 
come from her lips. She shrank back from him, further 
and further back till she cowered on the floor, watching 
him. 

Slowly so slowly yet steadily that the movement 
seemed supernatural he was lifting himself up. He did 
not look at her. His gaunt face was tense and absorbed, 
as though the whole being of the man were turned inwards 
on the contemplation of a miracle. His arms hung straight 
at his sides. He lifted them holding them out before 
him. 

" Bagh Sahib ! " 

He pushed the sheet back and slipped his legs over the 
edge of the bed. They were mere sticks fleshless, piteous 
yet he stood up swaying like a tall reed in the wind. 
The woman, huddled on the floor, dragged herself to her 
feet and stumbled towards him. He put his arm round 
her shoulders, leaning on her. 

" Nelly poor Nelly something in my head it's better 
help me " 

It was a child talking a. mumbling, broken appeal. 
Yet there was a purpose in him stronger than his weak- 



RESURRECTION 371 

ness. He lurched across the room. "Nell sweetheart 
my uniform my parade things my sword " 

" They're here dear you can't " 

A shot was fired this time close at hand. He made 
an odd little sound like a laugh. 

" They've not done with me yet by the Lord they 
shall meet Bagh Sahib again we'll see who's strongest 

even now " He held out his palsied hands ; he was 

gasping, but it was in the flood-tide of returning life. His 
eyes shone like a young man's. " Nell you used to 
know the. way there wasn't a buckle you couldn't manage 
quicker to spot things than a sergeant on parade. No 
mistakes now Bagh Sahib never made mistakes the 
smartest man in the Indian Army. By Gad there's the 
sword not rusty ? No that's like you so now kiss 
me " 

Between each sentence there had geen a gap of time. 
She had obeyed him like a woman possessed. Now he 
stood before her a ghostly figure in the loose-fitting 
uniform the shadow of the man whom she had once 
loved but at least the shadow. 

She clung to him half supporting him, herself shaking 
from head to foot. 

" My Richard " 

" Nell sweetheart help me to go to them just to 
the door and then alone ? " 

" Yes yes " 

" Kiss me ! " 

Her poor, wizened little face glowed like a girl's as she 
lifted it to his. The years, with their bitterness, dropped 
from her memory. She did not need to understand more 
than one thing, that he had been given back to her as 
he had once been. Nothing mattered now not even 
death itself. 

" Lean on me, Richard I am quite strong " 

They went together down the gloomy passage, his arm 
still about her shoulders. She had need of her boasted 
strength. At first his weight almost bore her to the 
ground. But with every step he held himself straighter, 
freeing himself from her support. At the door of the 
dining-room, he stood upright, only his hands touching 
her. 

He kissed her. Then he went in alone. 

A handful of women still sat at the table and talked 



372 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

loudly and incessantly. The rest were helping the men 
barricade the verandah window. Mrs. Smithers worked 
with the grim energy of despair, keeping to Tristram's 
side as though his nearness brought her some comfort. It 
was she who saw Boucicault first, and in her consternation 
clutched at her companion's arm. 

" Lawks a-mercy ! " she whispered. " Look ! " 

Tristram turned. It seemed to him that he had known 
even before she had touched him. Incredible though this 
thing was, it was also inevitable. The gaze of the two 
men crossed. Tristram waited for the hating, satiric 
smile, bracing himself to meet its triumph. But there was 
no change in Boucicault's face scarcely recognition. 

A bugle-call rang above the approaching storm. 

Boucicault came forwaqj. 

" Gentlemen gentlemen this is child's-play ! Do you 
suppose my fire-eaters care for a few arm-chairs and a 
crazy gun ? Why, we've swallowed whole fortresses 
armed with cannon in my time. Who's in command 
here ? " 

He frowned round on them. Not even Armstrong him- 
self moved. This man had risen from the dead. If their 
own nearness to death blurred the miracle of it, they were 
no less under the ban of a miraculous authority. Bouci- 
cault shrugged his shoulders. He crossed over to the 
window and pulled the curtains aside. To the right, to- 
wards the barracks, torchlights ran backwards and for- 
wards like distracted fire-flies, gradually converging to- 
gether in a solid block of flame. A black rage settled on 
the old man's sunken features. 

" Who the devil has been meddling with my men ? " 
he cursed. "The 65th never revolted in its history. 
Whose fault is this ? Can't somebody speak ? " But 
they could only look at <each other in pitying helplessness. 
He had forgotten. He was back in the old days when 
he had led his men triumphantly into a fire under which 
every other regiment had 1 withered. He was Bagh Sahib, 
the hero, the demi-god. He had forgotten and even if 
thoy could, they would not have penetrated that merciful 
oblivion. 

He settled his helmet. His thin hand rested tremblingly 
on the hilt of his sword. 

"The civilians, stay here with the women," he said. 
" The rest follow me." 



RESURRECTION 373 

He went waveringly down the steps. And then only 
they recovered their power of action. Tristram was at 
his side as he reached the garden. 

" Colonel Boucicault you're not in a fit state " 

The light from behind him flashed into the cold 
eyes. 

" Not fit ? I'm more fit than those arm-chair soldiers." 
A wintry smile quivered under the grey moustache. 
" You were always confoundedly interfering, Major 
Tristram." 

" What do you mean to do ? " 

" Take command of my regiment." He turned his 
back on them. Arabella, still panting and covered from 
head to foot in mud, had drawn his attention. " Your 
horse, Major, I am sure ? Your mounts were always a 
disgrace to your service. Saddleless, too ? However- 
better than nothing. Help me up " 

He was obeyed. They might have thrown themselves 
on him held him back by sheer force, but they could not. 
He had taken command. Dr. Martin wrung his hands as 
though his own death were not howling at him within a 
couple of hundred yards. 

" It's impossible the man was paralysed hah* an hour 
agoA-he ought not to be able to stand. If you allow him 
to go, I won't take the responsibility ' 

Mrs. Compton shook him by the arm. Her eyes were 
shining like two points of fire. 

" Shut up don't you see he's the Bagh Sahib he 
can do things we can't it's our only chance." 

Bagh Sahib rode down the avenue at a walk. He did 
'not hurry, tliough the sinister light swept down on him 
amidst a pandemonium of rattling drums and trumpet 
calls. His face was resolute no longer brutal and the 
smile lingered at his lips. It was as though the coming 
encounter amused him. He did not look to see whether 
he was followed. 

The men he had commanded looked at one another. 
Compton fingered the revolver which he had retrieved. 
He glanced at his wife, and she nodded. 

" Well, I'm. going, anyhow," he said. 

The twelve remaining officers of the 65th assented. 
Armstrong himself had already hurried on in front of 
Compton. He was a staid, humdrum type of man, but in 
that moment the fire was in his blood. None of them re- 



374 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

membered that this same Boucicault was the source of 
the very evil which he had set out to master. 

He was the Bagh Sahib. 

That was all they knew of him. 

They reached the compound gates as Boucicault, with 
Tristram at his heels, came in sight of the mutiny leaders. 
It was still pitch dark, but the rain had stopped and the 
torches burnt up luridly in the still air. Separate from 
the rest, a gaunt, spectral figure on the ungainly horse, 
Boucicault waited tranquilly. He was so motionless, so 
unexpected that the seething mass of soldiers came to a 
sudden halt. A shot rang out from somewhere in the 
rear, but those in the first ranks wavered. The super- 
stition which was a very part of their blood chilled them to 
silence. The roll of drums died away to a faint beat, like 
the throb of a dying pulse. The trumpet no longer 
sounded. Boucicault's eyes passed from one dark, un- 
certainly lit face to another. Then he laughed. 

" Well, what have you got to say for yourselves ? " 

He spoke clearly now. His voice had a metallic ring in 
it which awoke old memories. But it broke the spell. 
There were, perhaps, ten yards between him and the 
leaders, and they rushed five of them, with a howl of 
triumph then again halted as though they had flung 
themselves against an invisible barrier. A shot whizzed 
past Boucicault's head. He grinned mockingly. He 
touched Arabella's sides and rode forward, till the last five 
yards were covered, and he stared down straight into 
their faces. " You don't shoot as well as } 7 ou did, men. 
That sort of thing won't do. You want drilling, and, by 
God you shall get it ! That fellow who missed me shall 
have my special attention. The 65th wants polishing." 
He removed his helmet, so that the light flickered on his 
features. " And I shall polish it," he said. 

They recognised him. It was the thought of him which 
had goaded them to their revolt. Yet now he sat there 
on his horse the man whom they believed helpless and 
stricken and gibed at them. For them, too, he was as 
one risen from the dead. A sergeant in the foremost line 
drew back, cowering from him. 

" Bagh Sahib ! " he muttered. 

Boucicault leant forward and seized the man roughly 
by his ear. 

" Yes Bagh Sahib. You shall see that I can spring 



RESURRECTION 375 

still. Ah, you, Heera, so you remember me ? In th.e 
old days you fought at my heel like the tiger's cub you 
were. That was at Affra and Burda. Yes you could 
fight then now you can only mutiny like angry children 
Then the 65th had a glorious name in India, and I was 

proud of you But now " He thrust the man from 

him so that he went reeling in the mud. " You cowardly 
pack lay down your arms ! " he thundered. His com- 
mand fell like the lash of a whip. The man he had struck 
leapt at him. He had a revolver in his hand and he 
pointed it straight at Boucicault's breast. 

" Bagh Sahib you killed my brother " 

" And I shall live to court-martial you, my friend." 

" Not now " 

" Shoot then, you cur ! " 

A splash of fire was flung up in Boucicault's face. Tris- 
tram, hiding in the shadow, sprang forward with a smothered 
cry of horror then stood still incredulous. Boucicault 
had not moved. He looked down into his assassin's 
stricken, gaping face and laughed. 

" You can't touch me, Heera. Your very weapon 
refuses. We have fought together too often " 

There was a new note in his voice stern yet curiously 
caressing. The man reeled, broke down, sobbing thickly. 

" Bagh Sahib ! " he moaned. " Bagh Sahib " 

" It is well, Heera. I forgive." He looked over the sea 
of faces. " You see that you cannot touch me v For the 
sake of the old days when you fought gallantly, this night's 
work is forgotten. Lay down your arme." 

For an instant longer they stared at him. The red of 
his tunic hid the dark, widening stain. They only saw 
that the bullet had passed through him and left him un- 
harmed. The older men among them remembered how 
in the by-gone days he had passed scathless through a 
hail of bullets. Then as now he had been a stupendous 
figure half god. 

To the younger men he was a legend. The evil that he 
had done them was forgotten. He was their own past 
their own greatness the greatness of their fathers. They 
could not touch him. 

' ' Gentlemen jform your men into . their companies. 
Lead them back to the barracks. Remember what I 
tell you this night is to be forgotten." 

The little group of Englishmen behind him obeyed tran- 



376 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

quilly. There was the sound of rifles being stacked. The 
disorderly crowd formed automatically into sections. 
The scene had lasted five minutes. Now it was finished. 

But Boucicault turned Arabella's head and rode slowly 
back, and Tristram, who had seen that black stain upon 
the tunic, followed him. 

Mrs. Boucicault stood separate from the rest upon the 
balcony and waited, She was smiling. There was no 
fear only a girlish pride, a tragic happiness written on the 
grey face. As he came within the lights of the verandah, 
she waved to him, and he saluted her with a chivalrous 
dignity. 

Then he toppled from his seat into Tristram's arms. 

They carried him into the bungalow and set him gently 
on one of the sofas. His wife knelt down beside him and 
he put his arm about her and held her close to him. 

" There is nothing to be done the whole breast. I 
am too old a soldier not to know Please leave us these 
few minutes. We have so much to say to one another." 
But to Tristram he gave his hand, drawing him down so 
that his face almost touched the dying lips. " Major 
Fin sorry about your dog 

Tristram knew then that at the last it was not oblivion, 
but resurrection. 

He lingered a moment. Even as he stood there hesitat- 
ing, Boucicault's body straightened out a little. His wife's 
head rested on his shoulder, and there was blood mingled 
in the grey, untidy hair. Her eyes were closed, and she 
seemed asleep. 

They had so much to say to one another. 

Tristram crept out on tip-toe. He went down again 
into the compound. It was very still. The tumult of the 
last hour had died away. It had all been like an adventure 
in a mad, terrible dream. Arabella nozzled against his 
shoulder, and he stroked her gently. And, as he did so, 
the faint light from the room behind him showed him the 
slender, colourless band about his wrist. 

It was as though a charm had laid itself on his aching 
senses. A gate of memory was opened. He passed 
through. In the tranquil solemnity of an Indian night, 
he heard voices Ayeshi's voice, hushed yet passionate. 

" Behold, according to the custom, Humayun accepts 
the bond, and from henceforth the Rani Kurnavati is his 
dear and virtuous sister, and his sword shall not rest in 



RESURRECTION 377 

his scabbard till she is free from the threat of her op- 
pressor." 

The bo-tree whispered mysteriously : 

" Ah those were the great days the great days " 

And Tristram Sahib swung himself on to Arabella's back 
and once more rode out towards Heerut. 



CHAPTER XV 

THE SNAKE-GOD 

VAHANA ran on ahead. Bent and twisted with age, 
his half-naked figure far out-stripped the riders 
whose horses ploughed heavily through the morass 
of jungle-grass. Behind them, again, came the straggling, 
panic-driven horde of Ayeshi's army, and after them the 
flood, rising over Heemt. 

Vahana halted from time to time and looked back, nod- 
ding and beckoning. He was too far in advance for 
them to see his face. But in that feverish agility, in that 
patient waiting on them there was a malignant joy, the 
expression of a soundless, senile laughter. 

They had strange companions cheetahs, antelopes, wild 
pigs all the creatures of the plain trotting at their sides, 
unheeded and unheeding, conscious only of their common 
peril. They moved slowly, dragging themselves painfully 
free from the clinging mud. It was the flight of an evil 
dream the enemy at their heels, their limbs weighted, 
each step an anguished effort. They made no outcry, but 
the tortured breathing of these flying thousands became 
an unbroken moan of terror. 

Vahana led them by a circuitous path back over a ridge 
of ground rising to the rear of the temple. They foil 
unquestioningly. There was no choice. Their retreat was 
already cut oft' : to the right the flooded plain, to the left 
the trackless jungle hemmed them in. The ridge was all 
that remained to them. 

Sigrid rode between Ayeshi and Barclay. They had not 
spoken. Ayeshi held himself like a sleep-walker, his face 
blank, his eyes wide open and expressionless. The hand 
that held the reins was slack and indifferent. His horse, 
instinctively aware of the danger pursuing them, kept up 
of its own account, but he did not seek to control it. Com- 

378 



THE SNAKE-GOD 379 

pared with him, Barclay was the very spirit of sombre exulta- 
tion. He turned persistently to the woman beside him, 
his eyes ugly with significance. But her small, white face 
betrayed no consciousness of him. Its serenity was death- 
like. Her body rode beside him, but her mind, the living 
part of her, eluded him. He had not hoped that it would 
be otherwise his pitiless intuition had showed him the 
"limit of his power, the limit of all power ; but there was 
Tristram, who by now knew the value of the freedom which 
she had bought for him Tristram, who represented all that 
he, Barclay, had desired and hoped for and loved, all that 
he now hated with the intensity of a mutilated passion, 
Tristram who would suffer at the last. 

He laughed at his own thought and pointed a shaking 
hand at the mournful immensity beneath them. 

" Your friend will have a wet ride. Look out there 
the bridge has gone. It was swept away an hour ago." 

He laughed again, and urged his horse past her. He 
had triumphed, but he did not wish to see her face. 

She turned her head in the direction which he had in- 
dicated. The night, mingling its sable with the dirty greys 
of sky and water, shrouded the familiar landmarks, but 
that very narrowing of her vision widened th boundaries 
of her hearing. The thunder of the torrent sounded nearer 
she heard again the myterious mutterings which had 
arrested her at the bridge-head only an hour or two before. 
She knew that Barclay had not boasted. 

" Did you know that too, Ayeshi ? " 

" Yes, Mem-Sahib." 

His voice was callous, toneless. She could not look at 
him. 

" And you let him go ? You had forgotten so easily ? " 

** Have you found it hard to forget, Mem-Sahib you 

whom he loved ? " He awoke suddenly from his 

apathy. He bent towards her, his fevered hand on her 
arm. " Was not a little of that man's gold, stained with 
the sweat and blood of men, enough to buy your forgetful- 
ness ? " 

And now she looked at him. She saw the quivering 
features the eyes blood-shot and wretched with scorn of 
her. 

" I \\flht out of his life as you did, Ayeshi," she said 
gently. " Was that forgetfulness ? " 

" Mem-Sahib ! " he muttered. 

13 



380 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" You tried to save him," she persisted " as I tried. 
If we have both failed need we reproach each other 
now ? " 

" Mem-Sahib ! " In that reiteration there was agony. 
His hand dropped from her arm. " It was for his sake ? 
Barclay Sahib threatened you ? " 

"Yes." 

" And now ? " - 

" Now it is for Gaya for those lives your ambition has 
jeopardised. And even that may be useless." 

The ridge they were traversing began to slope downwards. 
The water was at their feet. They could hear it sucking 
at the long grasses. The men immediately behind them 
were, swept forward and lost their footing. A man who 
stumbled at Sigrid's side clutched at her and then went 
rolling ludicrously down the mud bank into the rising flood. 
She saw his head for an instant his face gazing stupidly 
up at them. Something square and black and evil that 
had lain like a lump of wood on the surface of the wut-r 
moved swiftly forward. 

There was a scream. Ayeshi held up his hand before 
Sigrid's face, but she had seen enough. The man had 
vanished, and where he had been the gre}'ness of the water 
had turned to red. 

" Oh God ! " she whispered. " Tristram ! " 

" No, no, Mem-Sahib not that not that they meant 
that he should die, but I I who served him and loved him, 
I know that death cannot touch him when he fights for 
others. He fights for others now, Mem-Sahib for those 
I have betrayed for my salvation." He laid his hand 
on his breast with a gesture of unutterable despair. " No 
not even he can do that. It is too late. I am accursed 
accursed ! " 

And, as though in answer, the crowd he led surged up 
closer to him. Arms were held up to him thin, suppli- 
cating arms. 

" Lord the water the water save us ! " 

" I am accursed ! " he whispered. " Accursed ! " 

She saw his face. The youth in it was dead stamped 
out. Yet in that instant she recognised in him the boy, 
the dreamer who, crouched upon the step of her verandah 
had told the story of the Rani Kurnavati. And the pity 
that surged over her had in it the passion of that memory. 

" Ayeshi why have you done this ? " 



THE SNAKE-GOD 381 

His wild eyes met hers for an instant's desperate intent- 
ness. 

" Mem-Sahib I loved my country my gods the 
history of them was in my blood. And then in Calcutta 
the misery the thwarted ambition my people starving 
the Englishman in the high place. They told me they 
were ripe for revolt only they needed a leader a leader 
who would carry the country-people with him. I cam* 
back. Vahana lied to me. I believed that my father had 
been robbed and murdered that my heritage had been 
stolen from me that Tristram Sahib himself had known 

who I was and made me his servant " His voice 

broke. " But it was a lie I had no heritage no wrongs 
to avenge I was their tool and now Mem-Sahib, if ever 
you should meet him, tell him it was a false dream but 
that Ayeshi loved him " 

She nodded. She could not answer him, and they rode 
on in silence till suddenly, Vahana, whom they could still 
see dimly ahead of them, turned to the left and pointed up 
towards the jungle. 

" There there is escape, Lord Ayeshi ! The Sacred 
Path that leads to the Shrine of the Snake-god. Who 
follows ? " 

The shrill cry died into silence. There was no answer. 
Barclay came splashing back through the water. His face 
glowed with a sombre excitement. 

" It seems there's some secret passage up through the 
jungle. We may be able to get right away. At any rate, 
it's our only chance." 

. But Ayeshi sat rigid in his saddle, and that which Barclay 
saw in his eyes silenced him. 

' ' There is a curse on all those who profane the Snake- 
god's sanctity " 

Barclay burst out laughing. 

" Good God, man, that silly native yarn " 

" I am a native." 

" Still, you can't be such a fool " 

Ayeshi turned in his saddle and looked back at the black, 
silent mass behind him. 

" Who follows Barclay Sahib through the jungle ? " he 
called. 

But there was still no answer. They stood there silent 
and inert, the water rising about their feet. There was no 
cry of terror from among them now. It was finished. 



382 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

Those nearest Ayeshi lifted their faces to him in stubborn 
fatalism. 

" Ayeshi, pull yourself together they'll follow you 
right enough." 

" I dare not," was the desperate answer. 

" Afraid ? A coward ? You don't really believe 

Ayeshi threw back his head. His features were terrible 
ifi their frozen composure. 

" I believe." 

" You accept the responsibility for all these lives ? " 

" I cannot help myself I am one of them." 

Barclay made a gesture of angry impatience. 

" Do you expect me to stay here and drown like a rat 
in a trap ? " he demanded. 

" No why should you ? What are we to you or you 
to us ? " 

Barclay shrank back. With a sound like a smothered 
groan, he turned his horse about and rode towards Vahana 
who still stood motionless and waiting beneath the black 
shadows of the trees. He dismounted and looked back. 
Sigrid had not moved. The water had risen swiftly 
to her horse's knees. Ayeshi bent towards her and laid 
his hand on her bridle. 

" Go, Mem-Sahib fear nothing they will not harm 
you. You are not of our blood or faith. Go do not 
let me have your death on my hands. Mem-Sahib trust 
him he will not fail you ' 

She lifted her eyes to his face. Behind his passive 
despair there shone the old confidence the re-birth of a 
faith. She gave him her hand, and he lifted it to his fore- 
head. 

" Mem-Sahib remember that I loved him." 

She saw Ayeshi for the last time as on the very verge 
of the jungle she turned and looked back. His silhouette, 
cut sharply against 4he fast-fading light, rose up from the 
midst of his unhappy followers like a tragic, heroic statue 
out of a black, uneasy sea. Vahana laughed shrilly, and 
the sound, breaking the spell of inarticulate terror, let 
loose a wailing cry which swept in a gust over the rising 
water. 
& " Lord save us save us 

She saw Ayeshi lift his hands above his head. She 
could not have heard his voice, and yet the echo of his 
impotent agony reached her. 



THE SNAKE-GOD 383 



" I am accursed accursed- 



She saw him no more. Vahana had hurried on into 
the darkness ahead of them, and Barclay half lifted, half 
dragged her from the saddle. She made no resistance. 
But her strength had begun to fail. She tried to free her- 
self from his hold to stand alone. 

"Go on without me I'm not strong enough save 
yourself." 

He shook his head stubbornly. 

" No I've nothing left but you. Keep your promise. 
The path is steep I can carry you. We're safe now. 
The ground's rising all the way. We've nothing to fear 
nothing. It's dark, of course hideously dark. Give 
me your hand." His was dry and cold. It filled her 
with a nameless disgust a strange pity. It was as 
though, helpless as she was, he clung to her. 

" Why you're shivering ! " he muttered. " What is 
it ? You're not afraid ? What is there to be afraid of ? 
We're safe here " 

" It's those others Ayeshi " 

He laughed brokenly. 

"What are they to me ? What am I to them ? Didn't 
you hear him ? That settled it, didn't it ? I'm not one 
of them I've got English blood in my veins. I've m> 
thing to fear nothing." 

She could not see his face. They were stumbling 
blindly up the steep and broken path, -and the . dense 
growth of jungle walled them in from whatever daylight 
remained. Yet his voice, the touch of his hand, painted 
him for her against the black canvas. She could see his 
face, eyes wide-open and distended, the mouth agape, the 
sweat on his forehead. She knew him to be possessed by 
a-n insidious terror. 

" What is there to fear ? " she asked in her turn. 

He muttered incoherently. 

Vahana had vanished. They could hear his body 
brushing against the tangled growths that hung across the 
narrow path like warning, invisible hands. Barclay called 
him by name, but there was no answer only a sudden 
stillness. He faltered the hand which still held Sigrid's 
relaxed. She stood apart from him. But for the sound 
of his breathing she could not have known that he was 
near her. The infinite relief of that moment's freedom 
kept her motionless, and then she realised that he was 



384 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

moving forward that he had forgotten her, every ambi- 
tion, every desire in the one formless, all- mastering dread. 

" Vahana ! " 

Stillness. He groped wildly about him. The sudden 
consciousness of his isolation drove a scream from his dry 
lips. 

"Vahana!" 

The answer was almost in his ear a soft, caressing 
whisper. 

" I am here, Sahib." 

" Don't leave me I can't see this darkness." 

" The path is a straight one, Sahib. Give me your 
hand." 

Barclay cowered back. A chill, foetid breath fanned 
his face. Something familiar coiled itself about his fingers, 
He tried to free himself. 

" The Mem-Sahib ! " he gasped thickly. " Where is 
she ? " 

" The Mem-Sahib is safe. The path leads to one end. 
Come, Sahib ! " 

The whisper had grown shriller, authoritative. There 
was a subtle hint of anger in its caress. Barclay heard its 
echo. Overhead a branch cracked under a moving bur- 
den. A thing slid over his foot and went hissing into 
silence. He threw up his free hand to beat off the in- 
visible attack and touched a slimy, gliding mass which 
dropped on his shoulder, winding itself about his neck. 
He flung it from him. He was gasping choking with 
fear and nausea. He heard Vahana's whisper, subdued, 
sibilant : 

" Sahib there are no snakes." 

But the very hand that held him was a hideous memory. 
Something vaigue, indeterminate, which had begun to 
hem him in since that night when he had fled from the 
vision of himself, was closing in faster and faster. This, 
that was coming, had been from all time, a hand groping 
up through the black depths of the ages, a monstrous, 
inert mass rousing itself from long sleep to predestined 
action. The darkness, the jungle, was a huge prison alive 
with sound and movement. The sounds awoke under 
his feet and went hissing and murmuring like a train of 
fire into the far distance, setting alight other sounds till 
they surrounded him in an awful, mocking circle. The 
walls of the prison were narrowing the air, thick and 



THE SNAKE-GOD 385 

heavy with an evil sweetness, weighed down upon him 
till his strength reeled. With an effort he freed himself 
from Vahana's clutch and began to run. The steepness 
of the path, the ur^even ground, jolted the breath from his 
body in agonised gasps. The branches of the trees were 
alive sensate, twisting, winding bodies, which beat their 
cold, shiny tentacles against his face their roots clutched 
at his stumbling feet, the hissing murmur had become the 
high,, threatening note of a rising wind. And behind him 
was that pursuing Thing that formless, familiar menace 
which he had foreseen, which had hung on the outskirts 
of his life waiting for its moment. He fled before it, 
because his frantic body demanded flight, but he knew its 
futility. The Thing was there, silent and invisible, gibing 
at his pitiful effort. It was not Death it was Horror 
itself 

A pale light broke ahead. He neither knew whence it 
came nor its significance. He made for it with a last call 
to every nerve and muscle in him. He reached it. He 
was dimly conscious of a brightening luminousness, of 
something black, serenely still, rising up out of the grey 
transparency before him. Then the end. It came upon 
him with a rush. It closed in in a clammy band about his 
throat. He turned. A flat head with a wizened face and 
small dead eyes and pointed mouth swayed before his 
vision in a sinister, rhythmic measure. It was Vahana 
yet not Vahana. It was not Vahana who was slowly 
dragging his life from him. It was that cold tightening 
band and yet Vahana was there close to him. 

He screamed. Again and again. The jungle the 
whole world, his world, shrinking about him till it was 
DO bigger than his own brain, echoed with his screams. 



CHAPTER XVI 

TOWARDS MORNING 

THE rain had ceased. A soft wind blowing from the 
north swept the low-hanging clouds into the fan- 
tastic, tattered fragments, between which a thin 
moonlight poured down on to the desolation of w, 
All that had been had been washed out as though a 
child's sponge had passed over a slate covered with the 
laborious work of a fife. Fields and villages, rich pastures, 
homesteads, bridges, each of them some man's dream and 
ambition, l^y under that smooth, glittering surface await- 
ing their resurrection at the hands of a patient humanity. 

It was by this first break of light that Tristram saw 
the way over which they had- still to travel. He sat 
motionless and upright, scanning the seeming limitless 
expanse, and perhaps in that moment some dim, unformed 
appeal went up from him to the Unknown which steels 
the hearts of men to supreme effort. 

And, swift on the heels of that brief intercession, thero 
followed an aching pity for the faithful comrade whos.i 
share in the coming struggle was so much greater than his 
own, whose purpose in it was no more than to serve him 
with the last breath of her life. He stroked her ungainly 
neck, striving to break down the barrier between living 
things which made his remorse and pity powerless. She 
answered 'gallantly with the grand courage of hef kind, 
and the water rose about them. 

It was a nightmare redreamed, save that now the first 
violence of the storm had spent itself. The wreckage had 
gone its way, and the floods' polished bosom shone bare and 
empty under the wane and glow of light. There was no 
landmark left by which they could guide their course. 
The jungle-clad mountains were mingled with the clouds. 
The temple shrouded itself in the shadow of the jungle. 

386 



TOWARDS MORNING 387 

They could but drift with the currents, fighting their way 
across, hoping Tristram himself scarcely knew for what. 
For who could have lived in that deluge, what escape 
was possible ? Yet he carried with him a belief born of 
despair, a serenity such as men feel for whom there is no 
choice, no second possibility. 

Something black drifted past him. He could not re- 
cognise it, and in a moment it was gone. They were now 
in mid-stream, where the rush of the water swept over 
Arabella's desperately uplifted head. It was then, the 
moon sailing out unveiled into the open sky, that he saw 
other black shapes and knew them for what they wese. 
They were the bodies of men not of isolated victims, 
of villagers and field labourers trapped separately or even 
in small communities by the swift disaster. They" were 
many hundreds. They ha'd died together, and death had 
not separated them. Like driftwood, they had been swept 
into entangled, shapeless piles of floating horror. 

"Sahib! Sahib!" 

The cry came faintly across the racing waters. Tris- 
tram, waking from the lethargy of abandoned hope, turned 
Arabella's head sharply up-stream. She responded. It 
was as though in those years of comradeship she had be- 
come a part of himself, obeying the same law, acknow- 
ledging the same creed. It was as though she recognised 
a familiar message in that appeal to her last strength, as 
though her blinded eyes had seen what Tristram saw. 
It was little enough to accomplish and yet so much. Ten 
feet to go before that agonised, appealing figure, a 
hurrying blot on the silver pathway, would be swept 
irrevocably past and beyond hope. It could be done. 
Arabella lifted hersejf breast high out of the water. She 
was young again. All the fire of her mixed ancestry 

blazed up for the supreme effort. Five feet three . 

It was done. Tristram stretched out his hand. It was 
gripped and held with the tenacity of despair. Arabella 
went down under the double burden rose again superbly. 

" Ayeshi ! " 

" Sahib I knew that you would come she is safe 
the jungle path behind the Temple " 

" Hold on, Ayeshi " 

" No Sahib " 

For an instant their faces were almost on a level. The 
brightening moonlight was in Ayeshi's eyes full of a 



passionate worship. " Humuyan came too late not 
you, Sahib " 

He tried to wrench his hand free. Tristram cursed bit- 
terly at him. 

" You try to let go }-ou dare try it damn you, boy, 
do you think I'm going to let you go now don't play 
the Rajah with me here " 

They were being swept faster and faster down stream. 
Arabella was dying under him. He did not know it. He 
could not have unclasped his hand. No reason could 
have mastered the love in him, or denied the love which 
illuminated the face lifted to his out of the black wat< is. 

" Sahib forgive " 

" Fool's talk I don't know the word hold on, d'you 
hear * I'll get you out of it. You shall go scot free 
only hold on Ayeshi " 

They fought each other, hand clasped in hand, eye to 
eye. * No two enemies, spurred on by the bitterest hatred, 
could have fought more grimly. 

Tristram laughed. 

" I'm stronger than you always was ' Something 

flashed up in the light. " Ayeshi ! " he gasped. 

A faint smile dawned on the native's face. 

" Greater love hath no man 

The knife fell with maniacal strength. Tristram closed 
his eyes. No fear, but a sheer incredulous horror lamed 
all power of self-defence. The second of suspense passed. 
Nothing only now there was no weight on the hand still 
clasped in his, only Arabella again breasted the torrent 
with the energy of release from a killing burden. 

" Ayeshi ! " 

No answer only that mute, blood-stained hand grown 
powerless and one more figure floating to join its brothers 
on the great, silver-flooded field. 

Two boatmen, guiding their flat-bottomed craft between 
the ruined hovels of Heerut, saw him as he waded waist- 
deep through the receding flood. The brightening dawn 
was on his face, but they did not recognise him till he 
called them by name. Then silently they paddled to- 
wards him and dragged him to safety. 

They were old men, palsied with the horrors of that 
night. There was no thought of rebellion left in them. 
They could only whisper incoherently, like frightened 



TOWARDS MORNING 389 

children, looking up into his face as at something at once 
loved and terrible. 

" Dakktar Sahib Dakktar Sahib ! " 

He became slowly conscious of them and of their piteous- 
ness.. . 

" There's nothing to fear," he said compassionately. 
" I'm not a spirit my horse brought me across just got 
me into my depth, poor girl I've been wading about 
till morning." He composed himself with a stern effort. 
" Row me to my place will you ? " 

But they shook their heads. 

" Gone, Dakktar Sahib, gone." 

His face was grey stiff-looking. 

" Still, row me to where it was." 

They obeyed him. Here and there a wall remained, or 
a hah* roof balanced on a few battered, shapeless heaps of 
mud. A carcase of a sacred bull floated backwards and 
forwards between two ruins, with a grotesque semblance 
of life. At the cross-roads the council- tree trailed its 
leaves sadly in the still water. 

But where the Dakktar Sahib's hut had been there was 
nothing. 

He bowed his face upon his hands. 

The men stared at him blankly, themselves too stupefied 
by loss for either pity or understanding. The minutes 
flowed past in mournful, stately silence. At last Tristram 
drew himself up. His eyes were calm warm with a 
hardly won knowledge and the awfulness had gone from 
him. 

" Row me to the path behind the Temple." 

"Dakktar Sahib " they muttered. 

" I shall not ask you to follow me," he said, gently. 

They rowed out of Heerut towards the rising ground 
of the jungle mountains. The fiery wheel of the sun rose 
behind Gaya and the temple shone like a black opal in 
the morning glow. As they drew nearer Tristram's eyes 
sought out the great window of the Sikhara. His 
thoughts were vague, unformed, still and serene as the 
water flowing peacefully over the plain. Through that 
window Vishnu watched for his beloved rising amidst her 
golden-haired dawn-maidens. 

" It is here, Sahib." 

They looked at him and now it was with awe a kind 
of dumb protest, but he smiled at them, shaking his bead. 



390 TRISTRAM SAHIB 

" There is nothing to fear. Wait for me." 

" Sahib the curse." 

" There is no curse," he said, with the same gentleness. 

He waded through the water, to the place they indi- 
cated and pushed aside the tangled bushes. The hidden 
path lay before him, leading steeply upwards. He went 
on. He was climbing from gloom and shadow into light. 
He knew now neither doubt nor fear. A great serenity 
possessed him. There could be no curse. Strange flowers 
clustered at the roots of the stark, straight-standing trees 
but they were not evil. There was sound a rustling 
and crackling among the branches a frightened scurry- 
ing of some wild creature startled from its lair familiar, 
loved sounds 'of living things. A warm, consoling radiance 
sank down between the stems of the trees as light pours 
down through a cathedral window upon the stately pillars. 

Up steadily upwards, up into a higher, purer air, with 
a strange heart-beating of foreknowledge. And then at 
last the end a wide clearing on the mountain-summit, 
and on a high altar, not Siva, but a golden Lakshmi, her 
face, beatific in its serene sweetness, turned towards the 
rising sun. 

Vahana squatted in her shadow, his half -naked body 
bowed over something so still, so huddled that Tristram 
faltered for an instant. Then he went forward and 
Vahana, seeing him unrecognisingly, pointed down with 
a shaking finger of derision. 

It was Barclay. His piteous face, lifted to the peace 
of the clear sky, was swollen and bloated almost out of 
recognition. But he bore no trace of violence. 

Vahana shook with a senile laughter. A fangless adder 
unwound itself from abou* his wrist, and he held it to the 
dead man's staring eyes, gibing at him. 

" There are no snakes there are no snakes." 

But Tristram had gone on. 

He had seen her. Like a pale lotus-flower oast up by 
the waters, she lay stretched in the short grass which grew 
about the foot of the altar, her fair, dishevelled head 
pillowed on her arm in an attitude of happy weariness. 
He knelt down beside her. The moment's dread was gone. 
He saw the faint colour in her cheeks. Her breath eamo 
gently, smoothly as a child's. 

He dared not touch her. Her peace was holy to him. 
But as though his nearness pierced like sunlight into the 



TOWARDS MORNING 391 

calm depths of her dreams, she stirred, her lips moved, 
shaping the shadow of his name. 

He drew her into the warmth and comfort of his arms. 
So it had been once before ; but now there was no fear, no 
pain, or conflict: 

" Tristram I waited for you. I was so tired. I fell 
asleep. But I was not afraid. There was nothing to 
fear nothing. I knew that you would come." She 
smiled wistfully tenderly. " Bracelet-brother ! " 

He found no answer. He pointed out eastwards. Above 
the desolate plain the sun climbed up in majesty towards 
a splendid promise of atonement. One day the fields would 
bear their harvest, men would build their houses upon the 
ruins there would 'be a new bridge across the river, wiser 
and stronger. The shadow of a curse was lifted. 

They knelt together, hand in hand, watching, awestruck, 
at peace. 

Vahana, too, was still. He, too, watched and waited, 
his mad, hate-filled eyes growing 'dim in the clearer light of 
reconciliation. 



THE ESTD 



Printed l/y Hazell, H'atson & Viney, Id,, London and Ayleslvry. 



UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 



A 000137433 9 






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